AFP Medical Center Convalescence ward gets makeover from SM Foundation

Along a busy street in Quezon City, a gate opens to a tranquil and sprawling surrounding that houses the AFP Medical Center. Its mission: to provide tertiary health care to its patients and health service support to the AFP and its national mandate.

The hospital traces its history from the 1st Philippine Army General Hospital inaugurated in 1937 to provide medical attention to the Philippine Army to the renamed Victoriano Luna General Hospital in 1946 after a hero of the battle of Bataan, Col. Victoriano Luna who served as Chief of Medical Service and medical adviser of the Chief of Staff.  In 1970, the hospital became the V. Luna Medical Center and was renamed AFP Medical Center in 1975.

Guest of honor at the turnover ceremony was former First Lady Amelita Ramos joined by BGEN Joseph Acosta, RAdm Allan Rosal, SMFI Executive Director Debbie Sy, SMFI Executive Director for Health & Medical Programs Connie Angeles, SMFI Executive Director for Education Carmen Linda Atayde, and military and civilian personnel of the hospital. Interestingly, Mrs. Ramos was also the guest of honor in 1997 when the Convalescence Ward and Comprehensive Rehabilitation Service of the AFP Medical Center was inaugurated. It was created in response to the need for rehabilitating military patients who suffered battle-related injuries.

The Convalescence Ward now the 114th Felicidad Sy Wellness Center comes with the upgrading of the Ward with its refurbishing and repainting and likewise constructing reception areas for the patients and their immediate family during visits. Also put in place are the Assistive device station, Medication Room, Counseling and Vocational Evaluation Room, Testing Room, Nurses Station, Livelihood Training and Activity Area and an AFPMC gender responsive Female Convalescence Ward.  Television sets, board games and reading materials are provided for the patients.

The Convalescence Ward implements the AFP’s rehabilitation programs for disabled soldiers who sustained service-connected disability.  These programs are conducted prior to their separation from military service to prepare them when they revert to their civilian status.

According to Ms. Cecilia Florendo, Chief of Psychology Services, the soldiers who are disabled in the line of duty need to be rehabilitated not only physically but psychologically as well to restore confidence and morale. Livelihood training in computer literacy, carpentry, food/meat processing are given so that once out of military service, they can still be productive and not a burden to society; those who have undergone computer training are assigned in offices, Florendo added.  Vocational trainings are conducted with partner agencies/organizations with vocational evaluation and Certificate of Disability (CDD) given to deserving soldiers who intend to undergo further schooling on vocational/technical courses.

Cpl. Leonilo Luis, 35 years old, from San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, and member of the Philippine Army undergoing rehabilitation for an injured vertebrae during a brigade operation against the BIFF in Maguindanao in 2012 said the livelihood training being conducted will prepare him should he be separated from military service.  He is grateful for being given the privilege to acquire computer skills in one of the livelihood projects.

Psychological evaluation dealing with psychological test such as intelligence, aptitude personality and interest test incorporating test results into case plan or case report is also among the functions of the Convalescence Ward.  Currently undergoing counselling for problems as a result of his disability is Randy Estrada, 29 years old from Zamboanga del Sur whose left hand was severed & with thighs full of shrapnels when he stepped on a land mine in an encounter with the Abu Sayaf in December 2015.  He was treated in Cuidad Medical Center in Zamboanga for one month but was moved to AFP for a delicate surgery on his thighs. Informal dialogue on disability claims and benefits takes place at the ward where claimants exchange and share their experiences and opinions.

The AFP Medical Center Convalescence Ward coordinates with the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled (PHILSPADA) for the screening of athletes for the Paralympics, a move to boost the morale of the differently-abled sports enthusiasts among the soldiers.

Aside from the rehabilitation programs, the Convalescence Ward is also a venue for medical examination and evaluation of neuromuscular, musculoskeletal and cognitive system; and physical and occupational therapy. Lt. Col. Fernando Calugtong of the Philippine Army who has been in the military service for 25 years is undergoing therapy for a knee ligament injury he acquired while undergoing airborne training.  Col Calugtong commends the efforts of the government and AFP officials for looking after the welfare of soldiers who are injured while on active duty.

Gone is the drab and gloomy atmosphere of the ward. A cheerful surrounding now greets patients, medical personnel and visitors– reinvigorating the weary ward workers and patients.  This is not the first time SMFI renovated a military facility, this is the 16th military facility so far upgraded.