Mounting health concerns in the aftermath of the Bohol earthquake as hospitals destroyed

Published: 5 November 2013 12:07 CET

By Nichola Jones, IFRC

In the 30 minutes after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on the Philippine Island of Bohol, Maribojok Community Hospital saw 100 walking wounded arrive with severe head injuries, fractures and cuts from falling debris. Within an hour, seven people – including two children – had died and the hospital itself was seriously damaged.

For days, the hospital grounds have been home to a Philippine Red Cross health station and medical tent, which is being used to treat the increasing number of people suffering from illnesses which, says Dr Jerome Rosal, are connected to the quake.

“We have seen a lot of people with upper respiratory problems and fever which can be explained by the conditions many families are now living in,” says Dr Rosal. “Many are sleeping outside and suffering extreme heat in the daytime before a sudden drop in the evening. This can lead to the development of fevers and pneumonia.”

Skin conditions such as impetigo are also on the increase and there have been cases of diarrhoea caused by contaminated drinking water. The risk of dengue fever, a potentially deadly disease spread by mosquitoes, is also a concern as thousands of people are now without homes and sleeping outside.

The situation in neighbouring Loon is similar. The newly built general hospital was ravaged by the quake, as were the original hospital buildings. A health station has been set up in an emergency room and a general ward now functions in the hospital grounds but the area poses other risks.

The quake left a half-metre wide fissure which ripped through the earth behind the ruined hospital, leaving the area unstable.

Hospital chief, Dr Celestina Delaserna, says: “The crack that opened up just behind here is big and deep – you cannot see the bottom.  And there are other smaller ones too which – engineers have told us – means the ground won’t be safe enough for us to rebuild here.”

For now, patients are being cared for by Red Cross medical teams as well as local nursing staff. Dr Delaserna is expecting more patients to arrive.

“Now we have much greater capacity than we did immediately after the earthquake, I think people who have been suffering in their villages without access to a healthcare will start to come here, but we are ready for that and ready to help.”

Ereneo Dematero, 69, was brought to the Loon medical post by his daughter-in-law Joanne. He is asthmatic and has been been struggling to breathe since the quake. “I have been ill since it happened. It was terrifying,” he says. “We ran out of the house when it began to tremble and people were shouting that there was a tsunami coming so we ran to the top of the nearest hill. But then people began shouting that there was a landslide on the hill, so we ran back down. People were panicking.”

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