About 47 percent of all deaths of children under five occur in the first 28 days of their life, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The early deaths are due to conditions and diseases that are often linked to a lack of quality care at or after birth.
Despite the big hurdle, it has been proven that putting efforts into strengthening primary health systems lowers the risk of death not only of newborns but all ages.
In another WHO report, the global under-five mortality rate has fallen by 50 percent since the start of the century, mainly due to investments in improving primary health systems.
One with the communities in prioritizing health and wellbeing, SM Foundation, the social good arm of the SM group, has made it its mission to make targeted social investments in health care to help underserved Filipinos improve their wellbeing.
For years, the foundation has upgraded over 170 health centers and public health facilities in the Philippines.
This includes the pediatric ward of the West Visayas State University Medical Center (WVSUMC) in Iloilo City.
Upgrading health facilities
About 56% of WVSUMC pediatric ward patients are from Iloilo City’s vulnerable communities.
The ward also serves patients from other cities and municipalities in Antique, Aklan, Capiz, Guimaras, Palawan, and Negros Occidental.
With many relying on the services of the ward, SM Foundation upgraded the WVSUMC’s step-down NICU, pediatric ward for non-infectious cases, treatment room, hallway, toilet, and hand washing areas.
To ensure a therapeutic environment that promotes healing, SMFI equipped the area with specialized medical appliances and devices, such as pediatric cribs, bassinets, treatment beds, nebulizers, gun thermometers, a mini refrigerator for vaccines, breastfeeding and divan chairs, office tables and chairs, beddings, pillows, TV, water dispenser, ceiling fans, and a Mobile Play Cabinet.
From delivery to postpartum care
One of the patients staying at WVSUMC Pediatric Ward was first-time mother, Ednalyn Valdez.
Native to Ajuy, Iloilo, Ednalyn was advised by a nearby medical facility to get her prenatal care in WVUMC instead, as they do not carry her blood type and won’t be capable of providing appropriate care if complications arise.
Thankfully, she was working near the city then. Upon experiencing the quality of care given by the OB/GYNs, she continued her checkups in WVUMC and decided to give birth there, too.
“Kung ano man ang pagkukulang sa buhay ko, talagang napunan noong nanganak ako at nakita ko ang anak ko. Talagang very fulfilling,” she said after 16 hours of labor.
However, her daughter Prielle was born with jaundice and an illness.
They had to stay longer in the hospital to receive additional treatment and ensure that her little one is healthy before reuniting with the rest of the family.
And amidst the extended stay, she was thankful for the renovated ward.
“Sa ganitong ambiance at environment, nababawasan ang stress. Komportable ang mga upuan kung saan ako nagpapa-breastfeed. Hindi ko na kailangan lumakad pa ng malayo para mag-CR dahil mayroon na ditong malinis na banyo. Hindi rin namin kailangan magdala ng mga unan. Ang mga cribs, very secured. Kaya’t napapanatag ang loob ko dahil tiyak ang kaligtasan ko, lalo na ng anak ko,” she said.
“If ever manganak man ako ulit, gugustuhin kong dito uli magpa-check up at manganak. Dito, kompleto sila sa mga specialists at marami pa silang ibang serbisyong maibibigay. Dahil mas kaaya-aya na ang pediatric ward, gusto ko rin pong dito ulit magstay,” she added.
More than just healthcare
Another mother staying in the new pediatric ward was Virgie Columna, a mother of a cancer patient.
“Last November 2021, nagka lagnat siya. Pina-dengue at CBC test siya, at doon nalaman na may abnormal cells siya. Matapos ang ilan pang tests, nalaman namin na mayroon siyang acute leukemia,” Virgie recalled.
Since then, her daughter has been treated at WVSUMC.
The treatments and chemotherapy would take up to nine days.
But as the situation was delicate, they would extend their stay in the hospital.
For over a year now, the pediatric ward has served as their temporary second home.
“Kahit laging nililinis, luma na talaga ang ward. Kailangan rin naming magdala ng mga unan at bedsheets noon, lalo na dahil nadudumi sa kama ang aking anak,” Vergie shared her previous experiences in the ward.
Carrying all these, plus her child’s necessities, was a struggle for her as they live in Antique and commute to get to the hospital.
“Pag balik namin dito, nagulat kami dahil renovated na ang lahat. Komportable na at maaliwalas ang paligid. Noong nakita ng anak ko ang bagong ward, ikot siya ng ikot, magaan ang pakiramdam niya, at natuwa siya sa mga laruan,” she added pointing at the Mobile Play Cabinet.
For the Columna matriarch, the renovation of the pediatric ward was a blessing.
With its refreshed look and new child-friendly facilities, her daughter gets to recover in an environment that gives her a more positive outlook about hospitals, uplifts her mood, and supplements their healing journey–one that lightens the heart.