COMMENTARY: Why I love Southern Philippines Medical Center

I do get consults from the North (Metro Manila, Baguio, etc) and I have met with a few kids and their families for free in hotel lobbies when I go for national conferences in Manila. This is because I believe that if I cannot care for them as a specialist the least I can do is listen, guide them to the right people or help them sort out important decisions. And a common question among parents is “Bakit andun ka sa Davao doktora? Bakit hindi ka dito ngpa practice?”
And there are a few simple answers to this question. “It is where I live (thanks to a Davaoeno husband😊).” Or “It is where I am most needed.”
But the answer is really – “It’s because of the people.” I love the kids and their parents. I love my colleagues. I love the community that surrounds this place. I love the challenge and opportunity to give the poorest amongst the poor, the best possible care.
I love to walk into the ward and smell cleanliness. And I also love it when I smell filth; or when people tell me we ran out of alcohol, hand sanitizers, chemotherapy medicines, antibiotics etc. Because it means there is something I can do; and if I can’t it means I already thought of all means possible. I love the environment that allows people to contribute, regardless of heirarchy, for patients and their families. For ordinary people like me, to do extraordinary things. I do not hope to accomplish great things like saving the world; but maybe the little that I can do in this tiny corner of the world matters to the kid or family in front of me.
I literally grew up in this place. So I saw times when babies were placed side by side on a bamboo bench to now when they have their own bassinettes; and moms have remote fetal monitors reported on a central screen. Over the years we have grown. We are no longer just a hospital; we are now like a small country. ☺️
I trained overseas in a public hospital where people got the best possible care from government. And I saw this unfold before my eyes in the past 16 years I have returned from pediatric oncology training. From the time of Dr Gerardo Cunanan to Dr Leopoldo Vega and now Dr Ricardo Audan as Chiefs of Hospital, SPMC culture is about caring for people and striving towards doing what’s best, despite limited resources. Not just by doctors and nurses, but by everyone.
I love our patients. They give meaning to our existence. I love it when they say “Thank you Doktora!”. I love it when they say in jest “Oh we are going for chemotherapy at our condo unit.” (Referring to CCI 😊). Or when asked by neighbors in conflict areas where they live they say “We are very much looked after and attended to.” I love that. Because this is the government they see here at SPMC.
I love my colleagues. Our COVID19 response team leaders are feisty women complemented by an equally feisty city mayor. I bow to our pediatric infectious disease specialist in COVID19 decisions. We have SMART men who know that when you want things DONE you give it to women; therefore there is no shortage of empowered women in this place supported by confident, powerful men and TEAMS that get things done.
Sure we disagree, we argue, we complain, we occasionally feel entitled, we whine and lose step; but together we pick ourselves up and trudge on. Because to many of us, this is more than just work. That is why I love my colleagues (SPMC doctors, nurses, non medical staff).
I love the community that surrounds SPMC. When we were chosen as a COVID19 end referral center they supplied our quarantined healthcare workers with free dwelling areas; they provided free transport to and from SPMC; they gave extra meals, even doughnuts and bubble teas!; they sent PPEs when we ran out and government subsidy was still not available.
It’s the people. Romantic this may seem but a healthcare institution is just a bunch of buildings without its people.
So to the embattled, hugely wronged people of SPMC and Davao City – the best way to deal with all these is to CONTINUE TO DO GREAT.



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