200 reasons to smile

SM Foundation's 200th health center brings new hope to Laguna

Rural health centers are more than just buildings—they're lifelines, offering a comprehensive range of health services at a minimal cost or even free to the most vulnerable. The presence of dedicated healthcare providers, who truly grasp the local struggles and share the community's cultural fabric, imbues these centers with a profound sense of purpose, fostering genuine trust.

Underscoring its firm belief in the power of health centers to improve lives and strengthen communities, the SM group’s foundation has recently unveiled the revitalized Santa Cruz Rural Health Unit (SCRHU). This marks a significant milestone for the organization, representing its 200th health center nationwide.

Service amidst challenges

SCRHU lies in the bustling landscapes of Laguna province, serving nearly 140,000 residents. Its reach extends beyond the immediate community, welcoming those from neighboring municipalities, primarily from low-income households.

For nearly a decade, Dr. Elmina Montesa has been the guiding force behind the old SCRHU. For years, she and her fellow health workers continued to extend services amidst the cramped spaces, inadequate facilities, and timeworn structure.

“Marami kaming programa na hindi namin malagyan ng lugar kasi kulang ang space kaya’t naghahagilap kami kung saan ito ipu-pwesto. Minsan, dahil sa challenge ng space, napapaisip kami kung sa labas na lang ba namin gagawin ang ibang programa. May kakulangan din po sa furniture noon,” she shared.

“Napupuno po kami lalo na pag may diabetic clinic—puno sa labas. Bagamat may tent, hindi sapat ito lalo na kapag umuulan. Hindi namin sila mapapasok dahil wala silang pu-pwestuhan. Hindi namin mai-provide ang comfort na nararapat para sa mga pasyente,” she added.

Despite the challenges, Dr. Montesa and her dedicated team of health workers report for duty daily, their hearts set on serving the community, particularly the most vulnerable—because for them, public service wasn't just a job; it was a calling.

“Iba ‘yung nararamdaman mong fulfillment sa trabahong ito. Napakasaya tuwing natutulungan mo ang pasyente at kita mo sa mga ngiti at mata nila na thankful sila dahil binigay mo sa kanila ang pangangailangan nila ng walang kapalit,” she said.

The center now exudes warmth, with comfortable waiting areas for patients and reception for health workers.

Uplifting community anchors

Dr. Montesa emphasized the value of health: “Kayamanan ng tao ang kalusugan. Kahit wala kang masyadong pera, pero intact ang kalusugan mo, maituturing mo nang kayamanan iyon.”

One with Dr. Montesa, SM Foundation collaborated with Sta. Cruz, Laguna to provide the best possible care to communities to increase access to healthcare and boost the morale of modern-day heroes.

A doctor measures the blood pressure of the patient using the new equipment provided by the SM group.

From the once cramped center, the SM Foundation elevated SCRHU, following DOH’s guidelines. It now has clearly defined areas for different programs and functions, including patient consultation, examination rooms, treatment rooms, utilities, and staff areas. It improved the center’s layout to ensure accessibility, ample lighting and ventilation, and spacious walkways to avoid congestion and contamination.

The rainwater catchment system hels lessen the center’s reliance on municipal sources and contribute to water conservation efforts.

It is equipped with a rainwater catchment facility for non-potable purposes to help lessen their reliance on municipal sources and contribute to water conservation efforts.

Beyond this, through the much-needed rehabilitation, the center now exudes warmth, with comfortable waiting areas for patients and reception area for health workers. Ensuring that the center remains community oriented, SCRHU has designated facilities for breastfeeding mothers, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. It also has a mobile play cabinet with gender-neutral toys to nurture comfort and promote coping in the face of illnesses.

As SM Foundation turned over the health center, Dr. Elmina and SCRHU turned over a new leaf in health care.

The center features a mobile play cabinet with gender-neutral toys to nurture comfort and promote coping in the face of illnesses.

“Masaya,” she smiled as she looked around the new SCRHU. “Dati, nakakapaghatid kami ng serbisyo kahit hindi conducive to working ang lugar. Kaya’t itong renovation mas magiging fulfilled kami dahil maganda ‘yung environment na aming gagalawan. Mas mapapaigting pa namin ang pagsisilbi namin sa komunidad.”

“Iba kasi pag maganda ang surroundings mo. Minsan, ‘yun lang ay sapat na para gumaan ang pakiramdam mo. Ngayong comfortable na ang center, mae-enhance na ang communication namin. Sa tulong ng organized at good environment, maipaliliwanag ng mabuti at magagawa kung ano ang nararapat na treatment para sa pasyente,” she added.

SM Foundation’s Senior Project Manager Albert Uy places the 200th Wellness Center marker as they complete the final stages of the renovation.