He was scheduled for a second transfusion on Dec. 19, but the hospital staff was too busy and forgot. They forgot him the next day, and the day after, and every day after that. It was not until Jan. 5 that a nurse discovered the expiration date on a second bag of blood allocated to Mabayag days before. The date was Jan. 4.
During his entire stay at Negros Regional Hospital, Mabayag received only a constant stream of intravenous dextrose solution, even after he was well enough to eat and swallow medicine.
On Jan. 9, still ill, scarred and angry, Mabayag finally asked a visiting team of independent health-care workers why he was in the hospital if the hospital was not caring for him.
"We told him there was absolutely no reason for him to be in there, and we got him discharged to his village, where we are caring for him when we can," said Dr. Remy Ortaliz, the head of the independent health-care team.
"There are so many cases just like him, not only in Negros but all over the country. There just aren't enough resources in the government to take care of our people."
Ortaliz's group, a volunteer, nonprofit organization, may well be the model for a short-term solution to the nation's health-care crisis.
It is called Concern for Health, and all of its 33 members are upper-class doctors, nurses and concerned women of Negros society who travel at their own expense to the island's most remote villages, where the government has not managed to reach.
The women, whom Bishop Fortich has nicknamed "the Valiant Women," help to treat the sick. They dispense medicine that they buy with their own money, and they survey village elders about local medical needs.
Use Traditional Remedies
"Because they have no access to modern medicine, most of these people are using herbal medicines and acupuncture to treat their sick," Ortaliz said. The so-called primitive medicine actually does work, she said, but the women are trying to deliver modern antibiotics and other drugs for more complex diseases such as tuberculosis, which is endemic in the villages.
But the Concern for Health group, whose members are close friends and relatives of prominent political and business leaders, has also become a powerful lobbying force for the villagers. It was through their pressure, for example, that the district hospital in the town of Himamaylan secured government money to replace its polluted water system.
The group also helped to secure millions of pesos from the government to pay for a major expansion of the regional hospital in Bacolod, and, through its lobbying efforts, helped to direct the Southern California medical team, which brought in 15 tons of donated medicine and equipment, to their provincial medical facilities.
The American team has been able to give immediate help. An American medical technician in the group toured one provincial hospital's dental facilities, where all of the equipment dated back to the 1930s. None of it worked, and the chief dentist said the only service he provides his daily average of 60 patients is to pull out teeth.
The technician spent the next two days repairing much of the equipment, and the dental room was fully operational for the first time in years.
Ortaliz's group also directed the team to the hospital's laboratory, where two of the three spectrometers had been out of order for months, as had the centrifuges and all but one of the microscopes. The team promised to try to find donated equipment in the United States to replace them.
But at one hospital that the team visited in the southern Negros city of Kabankalan, there were also signs of inequity in the Philippine medical-care system and of how politics has played a key role in it for years.
The tiny, 25-bed hospital actually was better equipped than the island's 400-bed regional hospital in Bacolod.
A new, unused X-ray machine sat in a storage room, still in the crate that it had arrived in more than two years ago. The hospital has no space for an X-ray room. The machine came courtesy of a powerful national politician who served under Marcos; the same connection brought the hospital's four microscopes, two of them still sealed in their original bags.
The hospital's head nurse and its medical director both said the equipment will be used when the facility relocates in May to an abandoned resort hotel that it is converting into a hospital with the help of a $100,000 government grant.
Cites Examples of Waste
Health Secretary Bengzon, in his meeting with the American medical team, cited other examples of waste in the health-care system resulting from political deals under Marcos.
Among the most expensive examples overall, Bengzon said, has been a virtual monopoly on the supply of intravenous bottles, solutions and a wide variety of drugs that was signed with two private, multinational corporations during the Marcos years.