Health workers prepare a patient at the 65-year-old Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila. The hospital is scheduled to close this month. (ucanews.com photo by Vincent Go)
A Franciscan priest has joined a growing protest against the impending closure of a Philippine hospital dubbed as the country's "baby factory."
The Health Department has announced that Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila's Santa Cruz District is to be closed later in June and moved to a new six-story, 700-bed capacity building.
Protesters say the new hospital — 1 km away the existing facility — will have policies that disenfranchise the poor, including higher costs.
Father Dexter Toledo, OFM, said impoverished mothers are living testaments to why the Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital must not be closed.
"Instead of contemplating its closure, we call on our new leaders to develop the hospital to serve more people," the priest said.
"Providing quality, cheap, and accessible health care to the poorest of the poor is the job of the government," he said.
For years, the hospital has served poor Filipino families, especially pregnant women, because of the low cost of its services.
"My mother gave birth to me in that same hospital and forever I will be grateful to it," said Father Toledo, executive secretary of the influential Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines.
The hospital's maternity ward has been known as a "baby factory" for delivering an average of a hundred babies a day.
Last week, activists rallied outside the hospital to demonstrate their opposition against the planned closure of the facility.
The group called on the country's incoming president, Rodrigo Duterte, to intervene and save the hospital.
The group "Save Fabella Hospital Movement" said the facility's structural needs have been "criminally neglected" and its deteriorating conditions have become the justification for its closure.
Protesting hospital workers and the activists claim the 1,300 employees will be adversely affected. But the hospital director said employees will be given the option to leave or to be transferred to other government hospitals.