Marawi City hospital not overrun — official

Gerry Lee Gorit - The Philippine Star

ILIGAN CITY , Philippines  – A hospital official dispelled reports that Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC) in Marawi was taken over by the terrorist Maute group as fighting between armed extremists and government troops continued over the weekend.

Amer Saber, APMC chief of hospital, said the report that the medical facility was overrun by the Maute was not true as he appealed to media outlets to verify their information before airing or publishing it. 

He clarified, however, that a team of Maute fighters went to the hospital on Tuesday afternoon and brought with them an injured comrade for treatment.

Saber recalled that two armed men entered the facility and asked them if they can bring in a patient. About five other armed men stayed outside the hospital gate and kept watch.

“They were very courteous and even greeted us with ‘Assalam Alaikum’ before asking us if they can bring in their patient,” Saber said.

The patient, who was in critical condition, did not survive.

At about the same time that this incident was happening, Saber recounted, a police car arrived at the hospital premises with Senior Inspector Freddie Solar, intelligence unit chief of the Marawi City Police, among those on board.

He said Solar brought his wife to the hospital as she was suffering from appendicitis.

Based on footage from the hospital’s CCTV camera, the policemen were taken hostage by the Maute fighters who were outside the APMC gates.

Of the policemen held at gunpoint, only Solar was shot. Although he was rushed to the APMC emergency room, he died shortly due to loss of blood, Saber said.

He added the terrorists left the hospital early Wednesday morning. He stressed that the episode where Solar was shot was the only incident where gunshots were fired within the APMC premises.

During the time the insurgents were there, Saber said the hospital personnel did not feel being harassed although, as an added precaution, he ordered some  staff, especially the Christian personnel, to move out of Marawi for their safety as the Maute terrorists were said to be targeting Christian residents.

The hospital chief added that the APMC was spared from destruction at the height of the bombings and clashes Friday.

“(It was as if) we were in Syria, (with all) the bombing, shooting, firing,” was how Saber described the sound of exploding bombs coupled with the gun battle on the ground.

As of yesterday, Marawi has been generally quiet and almost akin to a ghost town.

In a statement, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial also belied reports that the Maute insurgents abducted and held hostage at least 21 health personnel of the APMC, stressing that all government hospitals in Mindanao are operational and fully secured by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“(There is) no such event (hostage taking) and the APMC continue to be fully functional,” Ubial said, assuring the public that all government-run health facilities can carry out immediate measures, facilitate recovery efforts, and reduce the impact of any emergency that may arise.   

The Amai Pakpak Medical Center is a government-run 438-bed capacity hospital, with about 700 staff, including 108 doctors with various specializations and more than 300 nurses.

– With Mayen Jaymalin

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