Mom turned away by Bukidnon hospital gives birth to triplet in ambulance; one baby dead

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/05 June) —  The municipal health officer of Pangantucan has asked the Sangguniang Panglalawigan (provincial board) to look into the provincial hospital in Maramag’s alleged refusal to admit a woman expected to give birth to a triplet – a girl and two boys, one of whom died hours after delivery in an ambulance en route to Malaybalay City, some 50 kilometers away.

In his May 23 letter to the Sanggunian, health officer Roston Garces  asked why the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital in Maramag on May 18 allegedly refused to admit a patient from their town who was expected to deliver a triplet.

Garces coursed his letter through board member Marivic Montesclaros, who chairs the SP’s committee on health so the SP can “formulate policies and guidelines on this matter.

The provincial government of Bukidnon boasts of its health system as among the best in the country. The Bukidnon Provincial Hospital in Maramag is considered a secondary hospital expected to cater to the needs of the province’s third district.

“Effective governance according to the provincial governor is not only to provide for the basic needs of the province’s constituents but also to ensure that health services are available, affordable, efficient and more importantly accessible to those who needed it,” according to the provincial government’s policy on health care services which is posted on in its website.

Garces considered the refusal an “unfortunate event.”

“We pledged our support to the attainment of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) by 2015. So many resources were committed by foreign donors and the government for this endeavor but this unfortunate event is still happening right within government facilities,” he said in his letter, copies of which were furnished to Dr. Teresita Damasco, provincial health officer and Gilda Ajoc, provincial mother child health coordinator.

At a little past noon on May 18, Everlita Circulado, 37, sought admission at the town’s Maternity Care Center, where she was observed have a  multi-fetal pregnancy. Attendants noticed vaginal discharge after the patient complaint of stomach pain that extended to the back.

By 12:50 p.m. Ponce and her team decided to refer the patient to BPH Maramag due to her condition.  Pangantucan to Maramag is 24 kilometers away.

At the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital’s emergency room in Maramag town, Circulado and a team of medical personnel from Pangantucan, was refused admission in Maramag. They were instead referred to the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center in Malaybalay City, at least 50 kilometers away.

“The staff instructed us to wait with the ambulance on standby because the facility does not have the incubator for premature babies,”  Pangantucan’s Rural Health midwife Merlita Ponce said in her report, a copy of which was obtained by MindaNews.

She said she was the one who administered the delivery in the ambulance in between Maramag and Malaybalay City.

By 3:11p.m, a baby girl was delivered as the ambulance carrying the patient reached Aglayan, about 10 kilometers from downtown Malaybalay. Five minutes later, a baby boy also came out. The third, another boy came out by 3:20 p.m. but it eventually died.

Ponce said this was not the first time the BPH Maramag allegedly refused to admit a patient.

“Almost all the time, they would not allow the ambulance to leave upon sending patients to them because they would refer them to other hospitals especially when the patients are not Philhealth members,” she added in her two-page incident report to Garces, who was in Cagayan de Oro at that time attending a training in disaster risk reduction and management.

Garces said “risk taking behavior” and “sheer apathy” among personnel is a problem that must be solved “if we envisioned improving health services delivery.”

“With the distance, ongoing road improvement, and the condition of the patient, there was too much risk for the mother and the babies,” he added.

Montesclaros vowed to call the authorities concerned to the next session of the provincial board on June 8.

The provincial board has summoned the BPH Maramag medical director to the session to shed light on the issue.

Improving maternal health is one of eight MDGs.

The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc, has reported that the maternal mortality ratio continues to worsen with 162 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births.

The same report said 11 Filipino women die every 24 hours from pregnancy and childbirth complications.

According to the National Demographic and Health Survey, the infant mortality rate in 2008 was 25 per 1,000 live births. The country’s goal is to reduce infant deaths to 19 by 2015. The Philippines infant mortality figure was estimated at 34 per 1,000 live births in 2008. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)