On A Personal Note

By Dr. Saturnino P. Javier

In October 2019, I was appointed Medical Director of Makati Medical Center [MMC], the 600-bed tertiary care facility in the commercial district of Makati City. Then, I would still wonder occasionally why I accepted the post when I was comfortably practicing Interventional Cardiology in the same center –with no administrative headache, malpractice concerns, staff grievances, or employee complaints, among others. Four months later, the CEO, Dr. Cay Consunji expressed intent to leave for deeply personal reasons. A month after, in February 2020, I found myself beginning to confront the world’s most vicious pandemic –as interim co-CEO, along with the Chief Finance Officer. Yes, I was a four-month-old Medical Director who suddenly had to assume the position of interim co-CEO in an eight-billion peso healthcare institution facing an unprecedented medical crisis brought about by the brutal and menacing COVID-19 virus –thrown onto this predicament with a finance officer with whom I never had any working relationship before. Forward to five months later, more than 23,000 suspected COVID-19 cases, more than 2,800 COVID-19 positives, 80 deaths, and still in a state of Full Capacity for COVID-19, I am about to hand over the reins of MMC to the new CEO who will assume office in September 2020. What follows is a message of gratitude to the >700 members of the MMC Medical Community.


I thank the entire Makati Medical Center medical community for its support and engagement with the MMC leadership in a truly collaborative spirit during the last five months of this menacing viral pandemic. I accept and believe that your two interim CEOs [Mr. Arnold C. Ocampo and I] would not have been able to hold the fort–without the general cooperation of this group’s members.


The support of the MMC Medical Staff Association in handling matters that fell within or outside its domain is most valued. The assistance of the physician members of the MMC Board of Directors is most notable. The involvement of all Department Chairpersons, whose individual and collective voices always provide the much-needed rallying support, is much appreciated.


On a personal note, I can probably count on the fingers of just one hand the number of instances when contentious issues were lengthily discussed and argued upon in this group. As I have always mentioned before, I welcome being challenged about a policy or protocol—for as long as we adhere to what is factual, honest, true, and well-intentioned. I welcome engaging anyone in a professional and courteous manner. I always keep in mind that no one has a monopoly of good intentions and brilliant ideas - which should all be resolved in an objective and truthful manner.


Here, in the span of five months, a cordial and collegial atmosphere has generally prevailed in all exchanges—across all demographics, regardless of age, gender, the field of specialization, etc. I surmise that in all contentious discussions, the overarching concern for the common good is the sole and vital bond that carries all of us through. I must also say that during the peak surges of COVID-19 in March and April 2020, not one soul voiced major dissent to every policy and promulgation that was issued from my office [or from the office of the VP for Finance].  Thank you all for this. I thank you all for allowing us to do what urgently needed to be done—unchallenged and unquestioned—during the times we needed the greatest cooperation and conciliatory attitude from everyone. I am witness to the vile and vitriol that prevailed in other groups where I happened to be a part of—outside our community.


In April, this community has lost one of its members, Dr. Roberto V. Anastacio, from the Section of Cardiology. He, unfortunately, takes the distinction of being the lone mortality in MMC. To those who may not know it, he also takes the distinction of being like a second father to me—which definitely made his demise more painfully difficult to accept not only as a Medical Director but also as a colleague, a friend, or a son to an esteemed mentor.


We are still in the midst of the pandemic, but as the second wave of COVID-19 infections hits MMC and us, the indomitable spirit of the medical professionals is once again on full display.


As we speak, there are still challenges that we confront every day—the unrelenting droves of COVID-19 patients in our Emergency Room despite the Full Capacity announcement, the infection among our healthcare workers and trainees which fortunately are mostly asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, community-acquired and colleague-transmitted, the increased demand for COVID-19 RT-PCR testing, the manpower capacity that keeps dwindling, the need to fully serve our non-COVID patients who have been sidelined for five months, the constant efforts to maintain adequate supplies of PPEs, anti-COVID medications, and equipment, as well as the ever-challenging PhilHealth reimbursements now saddled with corruption charges on top of its lamentable bureaucracy just to name a few.


We have gone through bad times, and now presumably, even worse times with COVID-19. But what keeps us all resiliently standing are the various hospital leaders and their teams from both the medical and corporate sides who have carried us through this journey. In a few weeks, Mr. Arnold C. Ocampo and I will turn over the reins of MMC to the new CEO, Atty. Pilar Nenuca P. Almira. I enjoin everyone to extend full support to the new CEO to ensure that we remain headed toward the right direction in confronting this pandemic and charting the path for MMC.


I urge and I plead that we stay the course - the collaborative, productive, and engaging course - as we navigate through the chaos brought about by this viral scorn. God bless.