A normal birth delivery on a beautiful day in April was hoped for Leah Kristina Felice Lucas but instead, three months earlier, she arrived prematurely on January 14, 2016.
She was born weighing only 600 grams, 12 inches long and struggled for a month to be kept alive. Despite the circumstances, Leah is still considered as a miracle from above.
With a month-long battle in the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center (MMMHMC) in Batac City, Leah’s mother, Lalaine Lucas, recalled how she and her husband tried to exhaust all ways to be able to pay for the medical bill that kept on rising every day.
Leah is the first child of Lalaine, 26, of Barangay Salet, Laoag City with her partner Christopher Ordonia, 31, of Quezon City, who both met in Saudi Arabia working as newly-employed nurse and information technology professional, respectively.
Despite their professions, Lalaine admitted the she did not know where to get the money to pay the hospital bill as she was presently unemployed with her two-year contract in Saudi Arabia has already expired.
With this, she went home to the Philippines and had seen the chance to focus on her pregnancy, and as a nurse it came as a complete shock when she prematurely gave birth to Leah.
She said that her child’s situation was definitely a challenging time for her family “but thankfully, a solution came in when the social service workers of the hospital offered us the Point-of-Care Program” which is reinforced by the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte led by Governor Imee R. Marcos.
Under the program, Lalaine was able to settle the hospital bill with the assistance of the social service workers of MMMHMC, adding that the process did not come quite as hard as she first thought “as long as you can present all the needed requirements.”
The provincial government thus shouldered a portion of the total medical expenses amounting to Php 61,599.35.
Governor Imee R. Marcos, who first launched several programs to address the healthcare crisis in Ilocos Norte, had intensified the Point-of-Care Program in the province to aid Ilocanos who are not presently enrolled in any government medical assistance programs.
“Kung hindi ka barangay worker, at wala kang kamag-anak na may PhilHealth…may pagkakataong magkaroon ng PhilHealth [card] through the Point-of-Care Program,” she noted during her State of the Province Address in 2015.
Through this, hospital bills and related charges will be automatically charged from the program, said Governor Marcos.
To date, more than 60,000 dependent cards have also been distributed by the provincial government, providing financial assistance to poor but deserving Ilocanos thereby making it possible to help them defray the increasing cost of hospitalization.
Meanwhile, the Philippines is currently in the top 10 of countries around the world with the highest record of premature births at 348,900, according to the November 2015 report of World Health Organization.
Ilocos Norte, however, has been lauded by the United of States of Agency for International Development Aid (USAID) in 2012 for its effective maternal and newborn health program which seen the decreasing death rate of newborns due to premature births.
After being recently allowed to be sent home, one-month old Leah continues to show signs of improvement by now weighing 800 grams.
Lalaine continues to heed the advice of her child’s doctors by carrying out the “kangaroo mother care,” a practice that encourages skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the baby.
Today, Lalaine finds a renewed that her daughter will get through her current situation and encourages every Ilocano to not be afraid to seek the help of the provincial government.
“I’d like to express how grateful I am with the support given by Governor Marcos. Help is at hand with the provincial government and I hope that more Ilocanos will be reached and helped by their different health programs,” Lalaine said tearfully in Ilocano.—John Michael Mugas, PGIN-CMO