By Joseph Almer Pedrajas
The new chief of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Hospital disclosed that the national penitentiary is now in “critical condition,” citing that at least one inmate dies inside each day.
“For this year, the exact number could not be actually said. But we are in critical condition,” Henry Fabro, new NBP Hospital head, told reporters on the sidelines of the 3rd Asia-Pacific Conference on Prison Health in Makati City Wednesday.
Fabro said that the condition inside the NBP has reached a critical level this year as the rate of reported deaths breached a “universally accepted computation.”
“We compute the percentage. The universally accepted number would be 0.20 [percent], [but] right now we are at 0.5 percent,” he said.
Based on the death rate, Fabro estimated that there is at least one inmate who dies every day inside the NBP.
However, he maintained that there is no unusual increase in the number of deaths since he assumed his post as new hospital chief in September following a major revamp at the NBP over the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance. He explained that there was already a “high death rate prior to [their] arrival.”
Within a 17-day period in October, at least 29 inmates reportedly died inside the penitentiary.
Meanwhile, from January to September 2019, the BuCor recorded about 329 deaths, comprising about 70 percent of the total reported deaths from the agency.
In a recent interview with The Manila Bulletin, former BuCor spokesperson Maj. Wena Dalagan said that lack of medical staff and the current condition of the inmates at the NBP might have caused the inmates’ deaths. This development resulted in the national penitentiary recording the highest number of deaths among BuCor’s operating units.
Meanwhile, Fabro said a “poorly equipped” hospital caused the high number of deaths in the NBP. He agreed on the lack of medical staff inside the penitentiary, citing that they only have four doctors for 18,000 inmates at NBP’s Maximum Security Compound.
“Our doctors are insufficient,” BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag said.
“Kaya ito mag-uusap kami ni Secretary [Francisco] Duque ng DOH [Department of Health] para i-address yung concern na ‘yan,” Bantag said.
Fabro said that myocardial infraction or heart attack was the “number one cause of death” of the inmates.
Bantag added that arthritis, tuberculosis (TB), and hypertension are the prevalent diseases inside the NBP. He, however, said that he has yet to confirm if suicide and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases are also the other causes of deaths.
The BuCor chief also welcomed the resolution filed by Sen. Leila de Lima which seeks a Senate inquiry into the deaths of the inmates.