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The pandemic caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus has displaced and disrupted medical institutions nationwide. Both private and public hospitals continue to be inundated with COVID-19 cases that affect both their in-patient and out-patient services. Two weeks after the start of the Extended Community Quarantine (ECQ) imposed on March 14, 2020, it’s negative impact on hospital operations, changes in patient and community behaviour, and staff psyche became alarmingly obvious. It was also at that time, with more information being shared on the disease, as well as predictions on the length of time that it’s negative effects would have on the socioeconomic fronts, that the realization that innovative approaches were needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the lockdown, the President & CEO of The Medical City South Luzon (TMCSL) in Sta Rosa, Laguna, Dr. Cesar Ramon G. Espiritu, was faced with a dilemma. Many hospitals in the city, as well as the province of Laguna, were not fully equipped to take on the challenges of the pandemic. Because of it’s facilities and medical expertise, TMCSL seemed to be the logical choice to be the preferred COVID-patient referral hospital. This was validated and formalized after several meetings attended by the leaders of the different hospitals in Santa Rosa and presided by it’s mayor, the honorable Arlene Arcillas.
Because the prime objective of the Extended Community Quarantine (ECQ) was to contain the spread of the disease, virtually all hospital operations had to stop except those needed to handle COVID cases. Non-COVID patients were not allowed into the hospital depriving them of medical care, many with urgent and even life-threatening conditions. It was because of this anomaly that Dr. Espiritu forwarded the concept of a totally separate, fully equipped facility to care for all the institution’s COVID-19 cases. This would then allow the main hospital building to be “COVID free”, resume it’s normal operations and, more importantly, provide a safe facility for non-COVID cases.
The impetus for the project came when Dr. Espiritu contacted EEI Corporation who offered to donate eight (8) smart houses with the approval of it’s President & CEO Roberto Castillo. DATEM Incorporated’s Chairman of the Board and CEO, Engr. Levy Espiritu, was instrumental in the initial negotiations with EEI and also contributed some construction materials and manpower. Quantity Solutions Inc. and Orion Group International, headed by Engr. Rynor Jamandre, a neighbor and close friend of Dr. Espiritu, then volunteered to work with him and lead in the design and building of a center around the smart houses. Guided by Dr. Espiritu, Engr. Jamandre and his team immediately worked to come up with a design for a facility with the same features and requirements typical of a hospital ward that would be able to handle eleven (11) patients in different stages and severities of COVID, including a four-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) section. The plans would also included a detached facility for staff quarters. The two worked with Arch. Michael Ray J. Infante, Design Director of Orion Group International Inc., to develop the initial plans for the hospital. Working from their respective homes, they were able to finalize the concept and hatched a veritable set of plans within a week with the inputs of a seasoned doctor and the pre-construction planning of a quantity surveyor. At that point, the team had three huge challenges: BUDGET, LOCKDOWN and TIME. They did not have a budget to build their plan. The second problem is the closure of businesses that limited the sources of materials and movement of workers. Third, the project must be built fast to accommodate waiting patients.
With the final plans on hand and the list of construction requirements detailed, it was then time to find out if the team would be able to get the needed financial and material support. Engr. Jamandre quickly posted the group’s intent to build the Complex among his construction group and, astonishingly 70 per cent (70%) of the needs were pledged within forty-eight (48) hours.!
At about the same time that the team was working on the plans for the eleven-bed main structure, Dr. Espiritu also contacted a group called Unity In Isolation, represented by Ms. Margarita Tarroya , Ms. Denise de Castro, Axel Korneup, Martin Leyeza and Junie De Leon, to contribute their Emergency Quarantine Facility as a separate structure that would add another fifteen (15) beds, bringing the total capacity of the Complex to twenty-six (26).
Work started on April 6 and was completed in a total of twenty-seven (27) working days. This was a remarkable achievement considering that it started with no available funds, with the usual sources of materials closed, and with manpower limited because of the restrictions of the lockdown. In spite of all of these, people just showed up at the site bringing with them items that were on the list. Construction companies offered their labor for free.. In other words, this project was almost entirely built through the generosity of numerous private individuals and companies.
Being designated one of two COVID Referral Centers for the city, our LGU and Santa Rosa mayor Arlene Arcillas, were equally supportive. Permits and additional electric power (Meralco) connections were facilitated and the required number of hospital beds (26) were provided from their funds. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Regional Office 4-A (Calabarzon) granted TMCSL’s request for 12 RxBox units to use as telemetric devices to monitor patients. This was facilitated by it’s regional director, Alexander Madrigal.
As early as the latter half of it’s construction, the Complex of Hope had caught the attention of other health institutions within the province of Laguna as well as other provinces like Cavite and Batangas. The Complex is unique as it is the first COVID facility entirely dedicated to its treatment, is fully equiped and manned by a veteran staff and is separate from it’s mother hospital.
This project is a solid testament that the Filipino Bayanihan spirit is alive and well. It showcases what we can do together as a people if we are united in achieving a common goal for the greater good. This is a testimony to the Filipino’s resolve to unite in times of adversity.
While COVID-19 may be an invisible enemy that can affect anyone, as long as there are people who are kind, generous and ready to go the extra mile, we will have a fighting chance to beat this disease. We salute everyone who were instrumental in seeing this project to its fruition. Your spirit and your altruism are a shining beacon of hope in this trying time in our country’s history.
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