Quake severely damages E. Samar hospital

By Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 04 2012 03:05 PM | Updated as of Sep 04 2012 11:05 PM

SAMAR, Philippines – A hospital in Balangiga, Eastern Samar has sustained serious damage due to Friday’s magnitude 7.6 quake.

Patients, doctors, and staff of the Albino M. Duran Memorial Hospital are now concerned that their building will not be able to withstand another massive quake in their area.

Built a few decades ago, the hospital is showing serious signs of wear. The earthquake further damaged the cracked walls, ceiling, and floors of the aging facility, making it dangerous for several communities that rely on it.

Nurses recall how the whole building shook during the quake, knocking over oxygen tanks and cabinets. Patients had to be evacuated to the house of a local doctor, after a tsunami alert was also hoisted over the province.

Stroke patient Flaviana Cajepo says she was forced to stand up and leave the building despite difficulty using her legs.

"Natakot ako, eh kaso di naman ako nakakalakad. Pero nagulat nalang ako nakatayo na ako. Nakalimutan kong hindi nga pala ako naglalakad at napalabas ako ng building," exclaims Cajepo.

The hospital has since resumed normal operation, but its dilapidated state is still a cause of concern for the hospital staff. Some wooden panels are termite infested and show obvious signs of water damage, hospital beds are in need of cleaning, and sections of the floor have sunk over the years.

While a new wing has been constructed for the hospital, local officials have not yet allowed its use allegedly due to pending issues with the contractor. Doctors say it is also too small to transfer all their facilities in.

"Sila na rin ang nagsabi na hindi na habitable itong ospital eh. Natatakot kami siyempre ‘pag may aftershocks baka bumigay na siya," says doctor-on-duty Dr. Corazon Quinto.

Balangiga is a historic town in Eastern Visayas, site of the infamous Balangiga Massacre when locals rose up against their American occupiers in 1901. The American forces are said to have turned Balangiga into a "howling wilderness", after insurgents killed some soldiers who were stationed there.

The church bells of Balangiga, which were used by the revolutionaries to signal their uprising, were seized by the Americans and are still being kept as war booty.

Hospital staff are keeping the tradition of heroism alive in the community, servicing patients from 4 towns in Eastern Samar, and even those from neighboring Western Samar. But to be able to do their job well, they have appealed for a new building and medical facilities from concerned officials.