Save Fabella Hospital! - Soldiers try to move equipment out

The use of soldiers in pulling out Fabella Hospital's equipment is a clear attempt to intimidate the people opposing the closure of the hospital. - Save Fabella Hospital Movement

Members of The Save Fabella Hospital Movement and the residents near the hospital thwarted another attempt by its management to take equipment out of the hospital as part of its desperate move to close the hospital.

It will be recalled that in June, the management tried to pull out said hospital’s equipment and transfer them to the Lung Center of the Philippines, some 9 km from the hospital. But the group barricaded the gates of the hospital which prevented the pullout.

The Save Fabella Movement maintains that the closure of the hospital is part of a scheme to pave the way for the corporatization and privatization of government hospitals in the country. TWHA partners Council for Health and Development (CHD) and Gabriela have been at the forefront of the movement’s campaign and activities.

Under the neoliberal framework, many countries, including the Philippines, are following the trend to the privatization of health care, social services, education, and government services.

Many sectors are raising deep concern over the deteriorating health situation in the country due to the intensifying privatization of health services that has resulted in the further marginalization of the poor due to costly hospital fees, reduction in the national budget for health, phasing out of charity wards of public hospitals, unregulated entry of private clinics and diagnostic and laboratory companies charging exorbitant fees, and the displacement of health workers and professionals.

“baby factory”

The Fabella Hospital is a maternal and newborn tertiary hospital where mostly poor mothers from Metro Manila and nearby provinces come to give birth because of its affordable cost. The closure is set to displace its ordinary employees as well as an average of 1,000 patients per day.

Dubbed as “baby factory”, the hospital is considered as the world’s busiest maternity hospital as it handles an average of 70-80 deliveries per day.

The Health Organization (WHO) recognized the hospital as a role model of the WHO-Western Pacific Region Office for its essential newborn care programs, which have been proven to reduce infant morbidity and mortality.

Soldiers in full battle gear

This time, however, the group was surprised to see government soldiers carrying high-powered firearms doing the job as they carried the equipment to a waiting military truck.  

“Is there a war going on in Fabella Hospital?” a resident could not help but ask.

There is no other motive to use the soldiers in taking out the equipment but to intimidate those who protest against the closure of Fabella Hospital, the Save Fabella Movement believes. But fear is not in the vocabulary of the protesters as they confronted the soldiers, and demanded that the latter present a copy of an order to pull out the equipment from the hospital.

The Save Fabella Movement is holding on to the declaration of the Department of Health Secretary Jean Paulyn Ubial during the recent budget hearing in the House of Representatives that the hospital would not be transferred.

Even during a dialogue with Gabriela in August, Ubial assured that she will maintain the status quo in Fabella Hospital even professing that no movement of equipment will happen as long as there are employees who oppose the planned transfer.

The protesters later learned that it was the hospital director, Dr. Esmeraldo Ilem who requested the military to move out the equipment.

The confrontation prompted Ilem to hold a dialogue with the protesters.  As a result, Ilem was compelled to order the soldiers to unload the equipment and return them to the hospital.

The group is now planning to file a case against the hospital management and Secretary Ubial for grave abuse of authority for mobilizing soldiers to transfer hospital equipment without proper authorization or hospital order.

This is yet another victory of the Save Fabella Movement which continues to fight not only the attempt to close the said hospital but also the onslaught of privatization and corporatization among government hospitals in the Philippines.