MARAWI CITY (MindaNews/September 10) – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, only one hospital was treating patients infected with the virus in Marawi City and the 39 municipalities of Lanao del Sur. Named after Maranao hero Amai Pakpak or Datu Akadir Akobar who resisted the Spanish colonial invaders, Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC) is run by a female doctor, Dr. Shalimar Sani-Rakiin.
Rakiin was appointed as head of the institution from August 2018. It was not an easy task, but the real test as head of hospital came in 2020 when the pandemic hit Lanao del On same.
Northern Mindanao recorded its first case of COVID-19 in March 2020. But the patient was a resident of Lanao del Sur who was transferred to Cagayan de Oro City for isolation. It marked the beginning of CMPA’s struggles during the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, things were not difficult for the medical center even though most of the buildings were still under construction and equipment was lacking as there were still few cases. However, in August 2020, cases increased with the arrival of returning foreign workers and locally stranded people. The 150 beds allocated to COVID-19 cases were no longer enough.
The following days saw the APMC grapple with the problems of lack of manpower, medical equipment and budget for other necessities. Frontline workers have had to sleep in hallways due to a lack of rooms to accommodate them.
Fortunately, apart from Rakiin herself, the center employs specialists in various fields of medicine. Among them, Mohamad Alisar Abdullatif, a sought-after internist and pulmonologist whose wife is also a doctor; Abdel Hussein Dianalan-Lucman, internist and gastroenterologist; Alexis Ali Gutoc, orthopaedist; Monreza Macaraya-Guiling, anesthesiologist; Sahar Darling Usman Disomangcop, pediatrician; Minda Lanto Macagaan-Baruang, radiologist; Ali Macatanong, cardiovascular specialist.
There are also other doctors at the center who have chosen to help their bangsa (homeland) instead of working in well-paid hospitals in the metropolis. Nonetheless, the only hospital in Lanao del Sur treating COVID-19 cases has encountered more problems, including a shortage of medical oxygen supply, with the emergence of the more transmissible Delta variant of the virus.
As of mid-September 2021, APMC continued to operate beyond capacity. The previous week, his COVID-19 wards were 113% full while his intensive care unit was 130% overloaded, according to Dr. Alinader Minalang, provincial health officer and provincial vice president of the COVID inter-agency task. -19 from Lanao del Sur. Strength.
“We regret to inform the public that we are experiencing a shortage of medical oxygen supply since our suppliers can no longer meet our oxygen needs,” Rakiin said.
Minalang said APMC’s medical oxygen needs had increased dramatically from 200 tanks to nearly 500 tanks per day, and with the more transmissible Delta variant threatening the province, officials were anticipating the worst. He said Lanao del Sur had about 900 oxygen tanks when he checked the week before the interview, and the supply was only good for two days. “We are now running out of oxygen. This is our biggest challenge in this new wave.
Lanao del Sur depended on Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, towns in neighboring northern Mindanao, for its medical oxygen supply. But the growing demand has overwhelmed manufacturers there, Minalang said. Aside from depleted stocks, he said, the restocking process was very slow and suppliers could no longer keep up with demand.
Amidst all these issues and challenges, Rakiin has remained steadfast in her leadership and guidance to the staff and members of APMC. Two days after the 1,181 vials of Sinovac vaccine arrived at the center in March 2021, she was the first to be vaccinated. In a speech that called out frontliners who had to endure wearing PPE for over a year, she said:
“Today, hope comes to the doorsteps of CMPA in the form of the Sinovac vaccine. As health workers, we are just a few of those who are at the top priority to receive this vaccine and we are grateful for this. In return, we are encouraged to become advocates for people who are reluctant to receive this vaccine due to misinformation. We must take every opportunity to educate them. It is our responsibility as health workers to give hope and healing,”
To this day, Rakiin still leads the APMC, achieving a near-zero death toll from the virus before the wave of locally stranded individuals and returning overseas Filipino workers. She might even boast that local figures like the governor of the province and the minister of health of the autonomous government who tested positive for the virus preferred treatment at APMC rather than in Metro Manila or in the nearby towns of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.
Under his leadership, the center’s accreditation as a medical institution was upgraded from Level 2 to Level 3 in just two years after his appointment, enabling the hospital to shape and train a new generation of physicians.
When asked how she managed to turn CMPA around in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, she replied:
“Even before arriving, I already had a vision of what APMC should be. Although there has already been a pre-existing vision, it has already been encountered by the previous leader. So when I arrived, with the staff, we reviewed what we wanted to be… We realized that APMC had to have a multi-specialty centre.
Rakiin’s vision of APMC becoming a multi-specialist center includes a heart and lung institute, a regional unit specializing in these fields, as well as its already existing eye center, most of which would be available this year. Soon, a cancer center would also be realized. Everything for the service of his bangsa.
APMC recently partnered with the Philippine Eyebank Foundation. Among those who have benefited from this partnership, an 11-year-old boy successfully underwent a corneal transplant.
Rakiin is not only an inspiration to other women, but an example of what women are capable of despite what seems impossible in the face of a pandemic. She had allowed the center not only to survive the pandemic, but also to thrive despite the pressure of being the only COVID-19 hospital in the province. It even gained new capabilities to realize the vision of becoming a competitive medical center in the heart of Mindanao.
Rakiin, a widow and mother of four, remarked that she sees APMC as her child and wants it to realize what mothers want their children to become.
(Merlyn T. Manos worked as an agency director and editor at the Mindanao Goldstar Daily from 1998 to 2002. She has been a correspondent for GMA-7 since 2000 and a correspondent for Rappler since August 2022.)
This play was produced with a historical grant from the UNESCO Multi-Donor Program on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists. The editorial process was left entirely to MindaNews.