📍 Torrijos, Marinduque, a pleasant surprise 💖 – AIHO Immersion Cohort 4 Batch 5
It’s so hard to decide where to start. Do I talk about how far Torrijos actually is from every mode of transport into and out of Marinduque? Do I mention that we encountered two G2P1 women who gave birth in the same room: one who had live twins, and another who cried while give birth to her own dead baby following a personal accident? Do I say that our countrymen definitely deserve much better than what they are currently being given?
To me, the immersion served its purpose well. I had been wanting to see how things really were in our communities which cannot all be tackled in our conventional med curriculum. I silently pondered on the things I observed all week: people being recommended for NS1 testing due to a combination of dengue-like symptoms and recent recorded dengue cases, doctors prescribing antibiotics available instead of the more expensive first-line agents that the RHU cannot provide and the residents cannot afford, and the extremely long travel time to and from the farthest barangays which can prove to be detrimental in emergency situations.
Moreover, I think community exposure is the best setting to see just how much social determinants of health affect the way our fellow Filipinos live. Torrijos has problems with water supply that even the RHU is not spared of; instruments used were washed altogether at the end of the deliveries to conserve what little water they had. There was also occasional power loss, leading to a halt in ClinicSys encoding for consultations. In the barangay health stations, people flocked when they knew the doctor was in because he only came there once a week. Still, everyone working as part of the healthcare team did their best to provide the highest level of service that they were capable of giving. People were kind and helpful, and patiently taught us and answered our questions.
It was also such an opportune time that Dr. Joel Buenaventura from the DOH Central Office came to visit on the Saturday following our weeklong immersion. Having worked in the public health system since he became a physician, he talked to us about how the AIHO immersion program hopes to inspire in the young doctors of tomorrow the passion to serve the least, last, and underserved Filipinos. He wanted us to develop and sharpen our ‘public health mindset’ as much as our ‘ideal setup’. He hoped that we were frustrated by what we saw in our countrymen’s lives so that we can carry these frustrations with us on our journey, and that we will be fueled by them to aspire for change by deciding to work in public health ourselves. While I am yet to come to that decision, this experience will certainly stay in my mind and heart as I move further on with my studies.
Lastly, I pray that we all continue to push for better healthcare in the Philippines in our own ways. 🍃