MANILA, June 26, 2016— A Catholic priest returned Friday to the place he first entered the world, this time to support the mothers and heath workers who are battling to save the “baby factory” from closure.
For Franciscan Fr. Dexter Toledo, there was no other fitting way to usher his 33rd birthday than celebrating a Mass of thanksgiving at the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila for serving poor mothers and babies.
And he is asking other people who were born at the 65-year old maternity care facility to join them in an attempt to stop the impending closure of the hospital.
Toledo said he is thinking of inviting all those who were born on Fabella Hospital to stand up and express their gratitude.
“That way, people will be made aware of how many responsible citizens were served by this hospital in its many years of existence,” he said.
“My mother gave birth to me in that same hospital and forever I will be grateful to it,” said Toledo, executive secretary of the influential Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines.
Hospital employees and patients have been protesting against the planned closure of the country’s biggest birthing center and eventual privatization.
The outgoing administration of President Benigno Aquino III has included the hospital in its public private partnership (PPP) plan to be “modernized” and included in a complex of privately-operated hospitals.
“We are not against modernization. But modernization to the detriment of the poor is no progress at all. We say no to the closure of Fabella Hospital,” said Toledo.
After the Mass, supporters of the Save Fabella Hospital Movement lit candles in front of the hospital’s main gate.
The protesters demand onsite development and modernization of Fabella Hospital instead of outright transfer of facilities to a 50-bed capacity hospital in the Lung Center of the Philippines.
They said the transfer has denied needed maternal health care services to thousands of mothers usually catered by the hospital.
The government-owned maternity ward has been known as a “baby factory” for delivering an average of a hundred babies a day.
“The current Fabella Hospital used to cater to around 100 deliveries a day, but not anymore,” they said.
The group added that the new 400-bed capacity Fabella hospital building inside the Department of Health compound will only be finished by January 2018.
The transfer of materials and the continuous abolition of the hospital, it added, is expected to push through until the end of the Aquino administration’s term on June 30. (R. Lagarde/CBCPNews)