CDO revives lone city govt-owned hospital

Bobby Lagsa

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CDO revives lone city govt-owned hospital
'It is a shame that a city as big as Cagayan de Oro, the capital of Northern Mindanao, with a population of half a million, has only one hospital,' says Mayor Oscar Moreno, referring to the city government-owned hospital

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – After almost two decades of neglect, the dying Justiniano R. Borja General Hospital (JRBGH) got a new breath of life after its 3rd floor annex ward was opened on Thursday, April 3. 

The 100-bed hospital – practically abandoned by the city government in the last 15 years – was left to operate in such a dismal state that in 2009, its doctors resigned en masse after years of unheeded pleas to former local chief executives.

In June 2009, under the incumbency of former mayor Constantino Jaraula, 18 doctors resigned from the only city government-owned* hospital citing the lack of facilities, medicine, and disinterest of the city government in uplifting JRBGH’s condition as reasons. 

Mayor Oscar Moreno was undaunted by the task of restoring the hospital even with a hostile city council – 11 of them allied with former mayor Vicente Emano – that refused to release much-needed funds to rehabilitate the dying city hospital.

“It is a shame that a city as big as Cagayan de Oro, the capital of Northern Mindanao, with a population of half a million, has only one hospital,” Moreno said, referring to the city government-owned hospital.

Upgrading services

Due to the hospital’s worsening condition, the Department of Health (DOH) poured in P66.9 million from 2010 to 2014 to complete work on the annex building in 4 years.

JRBGH was also integrated with the city’s health department and will undergo an extensive revamp to make the hospital competitive. The CDO local health board, headed by Dr Ramon Nery, said it plans to upgrade the hospital’s standards and raise them to a level II category by 2016.

Nery said that with the revamp, the city’s 19 urban health centers will also be improved, modernized, and accredited by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) as maternal and child care facilities or birthing homes.

The upgrading of urban health centers will decongest the JRBGH and the DOH-owned Northern Mindanao Medical Center also located in the city. 

Nery added that they have instituted information technology systems in JRBGH so that statistics and information given to the public are timely and accurate.

 “All our decisions will be information-based. That is how we will deal with a hostile city council that refuses to give funds to the hospital,” Nery said.

Challenging task

Hospital chief Dr Fe Bongcas admitted that running JRBGH is a hard and challenging task but they will still serve to make a big difference and impact on people’s lives.

 “Before we failed in performance reviews, as we were unable to meet the requirements of the DOH,” Bongcas said.

In 2009, out of his frustration, CDO 2nd district Representative Rufus Rodriguez filed a resolution in Congress to transfer the ownership of JRGBH from the city to the DOH to help resuscitate the hospital. The city government refused despite its failure to support the hospital.

Moreno said he will be delivering the social services needed to revive the hospital despite the fact that his proposed budget of P2.6 billion was cut by P300 million by the city council in February. 

The P300-million cut was intended for the delivery of PhilHealth Insurance for the 50,000 residents in the city. 

BETTER SERVICES. The local government plans to upgrade the hospital's services to better serve the needs of CDO residents.

Modernization program

Nery said that part of the modernization program is working with funding and donor agencies both here and abroad. JRBGH is currently enhancing its human resources system and streamlining performance-based incentives programs to attract more doctors and health professionals. 

“But first, we must show them our confidence that we can do it, (that) we will do it,” Nery said.

The mayor is currently working with national government agencies to find funding for the modernization project. A new building that will house ancillary services, an operating theater, private and semi-private rooms, and X-ray and laboratory services is already being constructed.

The local health board’s modernization blueprint includes the construction of two additional 25-bed hospitals to help cater to the rural barangays in the western and mountainous parts of the city. 

Neri admitted there are more challenges ahead for JRBGH but their vision of acquiring a level II category will be faced head on. –

*Editor’s Note: In an earlier version of this story, the writer inadvertently omitted the phrasecity government-owned hospital.” He did not mean to say it was the only hospital in Cagayan de Oro. We apologize for the confusion and we have rectified the error. The name of Dr Ramon Nery was also misspelled as Neri. We have made the changes.

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