HOSPITAL IN THE FRONTIERS OF CIVILIZATION
ALMORA General Hospital is a secondary level hospital with a registered capacity of 30 beds and maximum operating capacity of 85 beds. It was built in 1998 by the spouses Dr. Jaime Almora, a General Surgeon and Carolyn Daway Almora, an Internist, to serve the people of Kalinga Province. Kalinga province is located at the Northeastern slopes of the Cordillera mountain ranges in the Cordillera Administrative Region. It has a population of about 300,000 comprised mainly of 9 major tribal groupings of indigenous people called Kalingas. Almora General hospital is located in Tabuk, the capital town, in a lush beautiful valley made fertile by the famed Chico River. For a long time the province is isolated geographically, culturally and economically from the rest of the Philippines. It is relatively unknown to most Filipinos and received the least attention from the government. It was only made famous as the last stronghold of the New Peoples Army.
The challenge to health care providers as late as the early 1990’s was enormous. There were a handful of medical practitioners, who were mostly in general practice. The Provincial Hospital and the three small primary level private hospitals can only offer basic X-ray , CBC, Malaria test, Urinalysis and Fecalysis for diagnostics. More definitive diagnostic facilities and life support equipments were not available. The lack of timely and accurate diagnosis made management of diseases tentative and non definitive. Mortality from preventable deaths was high. Because of this, the people has adopted a pessimistic attitude towards medical diagnosis and treatment. They continue to practice the Indigenous practice of “dawak”, a form of spiritual ritual healing for diseases, even while patients were still confined in the hospital. Trust and confidence to Medical science was low--and rightly so. Referral to distant Medical facilities in urban areas such as Tuguegarao, Cagayan (2 hours away) and Baguio city (10 hours away) were made difficult not only by the dusty and rugged roads that provided unwanted facial powder and free massage to patients but also by the lack of familiarity to the place, lack of social and family contacts and the presence of cultural inferiority complex of the Kalinga people when mixed with other people.
Such was the enormity of the problem that Dr Jaime Almora, The founder of Almora General Hospital, faced when he went back to his hometown after medical school to practice in 1984 . He practiced General Medicine for 2 years, which was enough time for him to realize and assess the needs of his people. He went to train in General Surgery in Baguio General Hospital from 1986 to 1990. While in training, he is ever aware of the lack of other specialists like Anesthesiologist, Radiologist, Ultrasonologist, Obstetrician, Neurosurgeons, Urologists, Endoscopists and others when he goes back to his province. This necessity has forced him to open his mind and absorb as much knowledge as possible in every field of medicine to make him ready for any eventuality when he goes back.. The burden was heavy. He went back to practice as a surgeon at the provincial Hospital of Kalinga in 1990. By force of necessity, he has to give anesthesia himself for his surgical patients. The lack of doctors has made it necessary for him to do General practice. For five years he never collected Professional fee from his patients, content only with his salary and income from his drugstore. He put up a drug store in front of the hospital to solve the lack of medicines and non availability of medicines at night. From the profits of his drugstore he bought the first ECG in the Province. His struggles to diagnose abdominal surgical pathologies, found an answer when Dr. Alfonso Doria, head of ultrasound section of University of Santo Tomas gave him training in Diagnostic Ultrasonology, making him the first Surgeon in the Phi;lippines to have formal training in Diagnostic Ultrasonology. Again from the profits of his Drugstore he bought the first Ultrasound machine and set up the first Laboratory for blood Biochemistry in Kalinga and the first QBC- Malaria blood test machine outside of Metro manila. Data from the new and sensitive diagnostic tool for Malaria has helped tremendously in modifying diagnostic and therapeutic misperception that has pervaded the practice for a long time in this malaria endemic area. To make his anesthesia safe he bought his own Patient Vital Signs monitor sacrificing again hard earned money that would have been needed to buy him a vehicle for his comfort.
The challenge to make a difference and improve health care was tremendous and unending, made worst by the inability of the corrupt government to rise up and respond to the situation. This prompted Dr. Almora to gave up criticizing his superiors in the Provincial Hospital and fighting for improvement in the Government Hospital and instead turned the challenge to himself. He decided to build his own hospital to realize his vision of quality health care.
In 1996, after a particularly good harvest from his Rice Seed Production farm that gave him financial leeway, he started construction of his Hospital. It became operational in 1998. The 3-storey building is situated in a 4,375 square meter lot at Bulanao, Tabuk, Kalinga Province. It had a 1,000 sq. meter floor area, with 30 beds and opened as a secondary level Hospital. The hospital was conceptualized with our Philosophy, Vision, Mission and Motto:
Almora General Hospital went on to provide the following diagnostic and life support facilities to realize its vision and mission:
1. Complete laboratory,
2. X-ray special procedures.
5. Video Gastroscope,
6. Video Colonoscope,
9. Laparoscope, and
10. Bone densitometer,
11. C-Xray machine
The hospital has a complete medical and surgical supplies and instruments made possible by a network of friends and donors in the US. It was given distinction by the Department of Health- Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR) as the MOST HEALTHY HOSPITAL, SECONDARY LEVEL, PRIVATE in year 2006. It performed the first Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy in Northeastern Luzon, ahead of the nearby Urban centers in year 2007. It is the only secondary level hospital private hospital in the province. It passed the quality standard evaluation of Philhealth and is classified as “Center of Safety”
Presently, ALMORA General Hospital is in the process of expanding its building and facilities. The new four stories building with additional 55 beds, has 7 nurses stations for the different and separate departments. It has the following additional units:
1. Pediatric Intensive care Unit,
2. Medical Intensive care unit,
3. Post anesthetic care unit,
4. Burn Unit,
5. Physical rehabilitation unit,
6. Out Patient consultation rooms,
7. Additional and expanded operating rooms,
8. Hemodialysis room,
9. CT–scan room
10. Endoscopy room.
11. Bone Densitometer room
12. Cadaver Holding Room
13. Bio medical workshop and
14. Waste handling facility.
The CT-scan machine is already installed and awaiting operation. The electrical facilities have been improved to conform strictly with hospital standards. A Dormitory for hospital staff is made available to make them available anytime and to improve response time in emergency situations. Rooms are spacious, clean, well ventilated and provided with cable TV, Intercom, Air conditioning and Piped in Oxygen supply. A paging system with 24 hour soft music is installed to improve the ambiance. Close circuit Surveillance system was installed to safeguard patients and hospital properties. Automated hospital System also installed as we cater to the growing online demands of our patients, records are converted electronically thus, information needed are just a print away (we uses BIZBOX HOSPITAL SYSTEM - the same system uses by ST. LUKES). Spacious hallways and sitting areas will assure comfort and convenience in the event of large number of visitors which is part of cultural practice of the people. Renovation of the old building will be done to further enhance the hospital facilities. Sustained Cleanliness is made possible by inculcating attitudinal change to adopt the policy of “Cleanliness is everybody’s Business” by hospital personnel’s and patient visitors alike.
On February 11, 2012, the Inauguration and Thanksgiving Ceremony held attended by key people in the Department of Health and Philhealth.
After completion of the building expansion, the hospital is expected to conform to requirements for a tertiary level hospital. It shall endeavor to become a “Center of Excellence” by Philhealth standards. It is expected to continue serving the underprivileged. Serious and emergency patients shall not be denied services because of lack of money.
The hospital shall continue to deliver to its clienteles a high level of evidence-base medical care. Despite economic deficiencies and difficulties of this frontier civilization it choose to serve, the hospital shall continue to acquire state of the art diagnostic, therapeutic, and life support capabilities. It shall continue to rely on God’s grace and intervention for the financial concerns. #