About three years ago, doctors at St. Paul’s Hospital Iloilo (SPHI) started sensing something in the air.
All of a sudden, more and more patients seemed to be coming to the hospital. They were coughing, wheezing, and complaining of chest pains. Many of them suffered from asthma and pneumonia, and experienced prolonged bouts of coughing.
Interestingly, it was also in 2016 when the Panay Energy Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Global Business Power Corp., began operating in La Paz, Iloilo.
Something amiss in the air?
Currently, the relationship between the plant and the rising number of patients from the area requires further investigation. Regardless, doctors believe that the increasing cases of illnesses resulting from poor air quality is cause for alarm.
“Plenty of patients are coming from the area where the coal plant is, and all of them are getting sick,” shared Dr. Helen Caro-Pastolero, the hospital’s Chief of Clinics, at the Healthy Air Now open forum held last November 8.
At the event, environment and health advocates from the St. Paul de Chartres, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and the Philippine College of Chest Physicians met with SPHI staff and the City Environment and Natural Resources Office. There, they discussed the impacts of air pollution on the environment and health of citizens in Iloilo. They also talked about the major sources of air pollutants in the area, such as coal plants and vehicles.
The forum coincided with the hospital’s installation of an air quality monitor for data-gathering purposes.
“Aside from fulfilling our duties as a green hospital, we are doing this project with HCWH in order to help monitor the quality of air in our area, so that we will know how we can intervene in protecting the health of the Ilonggos here,” according to Sr. Arcelita Sarnillo, SPHI Hospital Administrator and Healthy Energy advocate.
Health advocates against air pollution
Strengthening public communication around the effects of air pollution on health is also a top priority. The experts believe that effectively getting this message across can serve as the foundation for the pursuit of alternative energy sources in Iloilo.
“Ultimately, this partnership with the health sector is aimed to advocate for clean air by supporting healthy, renewable sources of energy, and help spur policy and technology development that significantly reduces if not altogether avoid air pollutants,” said Paeng Lopez, HCWH SE Asia’s Healthy Energy Initiative Campaigner.
“Sworn to first do no harm, hospitals and health professionals have an influential role in society,” stressed HCWH SE Asia Executive Director Ramon San Pascual.
San Pascual reiterated the role of health practitioners in the greater air pollution discussion. “They are not only listened to, but are also responsible for protecting the public from different sources of health risks such as air pollution.”
Fighting air pollution is part of HCWH’s mission to improve sustainability and environmental awareness in the global health sector.
Earlier this yeah, the organization officially launched a toolkit to help hospitals reduce plastic waste production.
Cover photo: Pexels; Health Care Without Harm