MANILA, Philippines - Around 3 to 4 inmates die every month at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) hospital.
This was admitted by the hospital's medical staff themselves, as reporters were taken on a tour Friday of the prison's maximum security compound.
While the medical staff said the facility is lacking in equipment, they were quick to point that this is not the primary reason for inmate deaths.
They explained that some patients come to them in advanced stages of disease.
This, compounded by the congestion in jail and the less-than-ideal hospital conditions, result in the deaths.
They also said they cannot stop the inmate-patients from smoking, even in hospital grounds, and this aggravates the situation further.
The NBP has a medical budget of P3 per inmate per day. However, it is not as grave as it sounds, the medical staff say, as the confined inmates are able to use the budget of inmates who are not sick.
Taking into consideration the entire inmate population of the NBP, this would mean that the 508 inmates currently confined have a P230 daily budget.
Eduardo Pintor, an inmate who helps out at the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU), said he wishes that even the ICU would have a clean supply of water.
Pintor said there is often no water at the hospital.
No matter what their illness is, patients eat what other inmates eat, which Pintor said is often just pancit or unwashed rice.
The ICU caters to patients with diseases ranging from tuberculosis, pneumonia, dengue, and even schizophrenia.
Dr. Gloria Garcia, officer-in-charge chief of clinics, said that in the hospital as well as in the cells, infectious diseases are quick to spread.
She clarified, however, that the hospital is equipped to handle even major diseases.
However, one certain patient at the ICU, they said is beyond help. Skin and bones, the inmate was wheezing and no longer conscious.
Doctors said he was taken in for advanced stages of dengue, but eventually gave in to renal failure. They said they could do no more than do have him blessed by a priest.
The hospital has its own ultrasound, X-ray, and ECG machines. However, doctors admitted that they are not fully trained to handle this equipment, and instead were just given 6-month crash courses on how to run them. They also appeal for better training.
New Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Gaudencio Pangilinan said this condition is unacceptable, and the hospital will be one of the priorities in his reform program.
"To me, the ideal number of deaths in a year is zero. That's what we aim to achieve," Pangilinan said.
He added that more than the facilities, a change of mindset needs to happen both inside and out of Bilibid.
Better treatment of inmates in all aspects of their life in detention, he said, is crucial if the goal is reformation.