Physician Spotlight: Caring for Philippines Typhoon Survivors One Year Later

Dr. Maria in Corridor Paint
One year after Typhoon Haiyan, Dr. Maria stands in the corridor of Ormoc District Hospital in the Philippines where survivors are seeking care after much of the country’s health system was destroyed.

When asked how she has coped for the last year since Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) devastated the Philippines, Chief of Ormoc District Hospital, Dr. Maria Lourdes de Lara-Banquesio, replied, “We do the best we can with what we have.”

Ormoc District Hospital (ODH) is the main public and referral hospital on the western side of Leyte Province, one of the areas hardest hit by the typhoon – the strongest storm on record to ever hit land.

Dr. Maria has been working tirelessly to keep things running at ODH, even though the hospital itself was badly damaged.

The burden after Yolanda was not as bad as it is now because everyone was helping. Now everything still needs to be done, but help is harder to find and there is less interest. – Dr. Maria Lourdes de Lara-Banquesio

“I just keep praying… the burden after Yolanda was not as bad as it is now because everyone was helping. Now everything still needs to be done, but help is harder to find and there is less interest,” she said.

The typhoon affected the entire health system on the western side of Leyte. Most of the health centers were damaged or destroyed. Moreover, many local health workers died in the storm and floods. This reduction in capacity resulted in more patients being referred to ODH because their local health station is out of operation.

A 100-bed hospital, Dr. Maria reported that ODH is currently averaging 210 in-patients daily, placing severe strains on the hospital. The nearest regional hospital is a two-and-a-half hour drive away.

But despite the circumstances, the devoted Dr. Maria has done an impeccable job of keeping ODH functioning over the last year. Though patients line the corridors, laying on stretchers, they are all being cared for by ODH staff.

“We are doing our best to provide for the people who have nowhere else to go,” she said.

To help Dr. Maria, her staff, and the people seeking care, Direct Relief is working to rehabilitate the hospital by providing new medical equipment to replace what was damaged.

You can join the effort to help give health and hope to people like Dr. Maria by donating here.

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