Government hospitals recall operational adjustments made amid water shortage

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Government hospitals recall operational adjustments made amid water shortage
In this March 13, 2019 photo, Health Secretary is escorted by Rizal Medical Center chief Relito Saquilayan during the hospital tank inspection as Manila Water and Philippine Red Cross fill the hospital's tank.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Government-run Rizal Medical Center (RMC) and National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI) were forced to adjust their operations during the water supply shortage in Metro Manila last week, officials told a Senate panel Tuesday.

The two hospitals under the Department of Health were among those affected by the water service interruption in the east concession zone.

RMC chief Relito Saquilayan told the Senate Committee on Public Services that the Pasig-based hospital was the first hospital that experienced water shortage.

"It started March 7 evening that was a Thursday and tuloy-tuloy po iyon hanggang, I think, Thursday din the (next) week but prior to that dahil nga po wala kaming tubig I felt that I cannot solve it alone," Saquilayan told the Senate panel.

The RMC chief asked for the assistance of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who called Sen. Richard Gordon for the Philippine Red Cross to help the hospital.

The Bureau of Fire Protection also served water but was not enough for the whole hospital, Saquilayan said.

"Noon pong mga first few days kasi we're worried about the hygiene and sanitation kasi during that time we have to start limiting our admission, 'yun pong sa aming mga emergency cases," Saquilayan said.

According to Saquilayan, the RMC had 418 patients when the water crisis started. The hospital had to spend approximately P100,000 for emergency procurement for water containers, about P50,000 for bottled water and P260,000 for an upgraded pump for the hospital's cistern.

The hospital chief added that they also had to spend for the fuel that firetrucks used in pumping water supply.

'Patients not turned away'

Quezon City-based National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), on the other hand, resorted to using a different kind of dialysis during the water shortage.

NKTI cardiovascular head Joseph Jaro clarified that the specialty center did not refuse patients and continued to operate at full capacity during the past week.

"However, new patients... were given the PD First Policy that we can do peritoneal dialysis in lieu of the reference of most patients to do hemodialysis relative to the shortage of water," Jaro told the Senate panel.

Jaro further explained that peritoneal dialysis, which uses the lining of the abdomen and a cleaning solution to clean blood, is as effective as hemodialysis and is fully supported by PhilHealth.

The NKTI official recalled that they received an advisory from the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) on March 11 about the water supply interruption.

"Unfortunately, a mere 12-hour or 18-hour window will not prepare a large facility especially the likes of Kidney Institute where dialysis is a primary function of the center," Jaro said.

Water interruption started at 3 p.m. on March 12 at a time that the water cisterns at the NKTI was at 30 percent only.

Reduced airconditioning

The NKTI had to reduce its own centralized airconditioning system during the water shortage as it consumes water to operate the cooling towers. The hopsital also had to operate its own deep pump to supply the daily water needs of the facility.

"We were instructed y the Secretary of Health (Duque) to be at operational level with 850 cubic meters. That means we will have to go all our other needs in the hospital including cleaning," Jaro said.

The NKTI also expressed gratitude to the BFP, Manila Water, Maynilad and the Philippine Red Cross for sending firetrucks to supply water.

As of Friday last week, the RMC in Pasig City, the NKTI and other specialty hospitals in Quezon City affected by the water shortage have almost fully regained their water supply.

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