Are hospitals safe? Perceptions and realizations

Column box-Dr. Carl E. Balita-Entrepreneurs’ Footprints

Our place of sanctuary couldn’t be the same place we are afraid to go. This dichotomized perspective is reflected in a survey to determine the general public’s perception of hospitals, before and during the pandemic. While perception matters, there are more that the public should know about how safe hospitals could be, and there is more that the hospitals should do to create a more positive public impression about hospitals. There seems to be an image issue on how hospitals are known as a place to go to and be in during this pandemic experience.

The health-care sector was never given as much attention and value as it is getting now from all sectors across humanity. The health professionals became heroes and saints in the eyes of the public. The World Health Organization declared 2020 as the Year of the Nurses and Midwives, not because of the pandemic but because of the 200th birthday of nursing founder Florence Nightingale. In July, President Duterte declared 2020 as the year of the Filipino Health Workers through proclamation No. 976.

The survey

This writer virtually surveyed 565 respondents from all over the country with 55 percent coming from urban cities, mostly 21 to 40 years old, college level (75 percent). A 20-item questionnaire was developed to cover various areas of the hospital experience before and during the pandemic. The respondents were clustered based on their experience either in public hospital or in private hospitals. Statistics covered central tendencies of means and used t-test to see the significant difference between those groups who experienced public hospitals and those who experienced private hospitals. The ratings were derived by the difference between those who agreed versus those who disagreed with the statements.

The degree of confidence

The respondents had high level of confidence in “going to the hospitals” before the pandemic with mean confidence rating of (+) 7.9, which is very high in a 10-point scale. The respondents had (+) 68 confidence rating (percentage of confident minus percentage of non-confident).

This dropped to a mean degree of confidence of 3.7 with (–) 62 confidence rating, with 81 percent of the respondents expressing that they are “not confident to go to hospitals.”

 The survey indicated that the respondents had (+) 40 comfort level in going to private hospitals but gave a (-) 72 rating when asked about comfort in going to public hospitals. When asked “I am comfortable to go to private hospital these days,” 70 percent agreed. Asked the same question but referring to public hospitals, 86 percent of the respondents disagreed. Statistics showed significant difference between two groups of respondents, with rating of confidence higher for private hospitals at 3.2 (in a 5-point scale) compared with 2.4 given to public hospitals.

Safety and environment

The (+) 70 of the respondents perceived that “the hospitals are implementing strict health protocol” with 85 percent in agreement, but when asked if the “hospital is a safe place to go,” 72 percent disagreed giving a rating of (-) 44. There is no difference between the perceptions of the respondents for public and private hospitals in this area of concern. The “welcoming ambiance” of the hospitals is given (+) 10 approval rating.

The public is well aware of the deaths of some health professionals in the line of duty. This must have contributed to this dilemma of perceiving the implementation of the strict protocol in the hospitals but not regarding it as a safe place to go.

The hospital personnel

The nurses are given the highest agreement rating of (+) 74 for their “caring behavior,” while doctors “being accommodating” are given (+) 66 rating, as compared with the “friendliness of the hospital personnel” that got (+) 46 agreement rating.

There is an observable difference in the rating of the nurses in public and government hospitals, with the nurses in private hospitals rated higher at 3.6 compared to the 3.3 rating of the nurses in the public hospitals. This can be attributed to the nurse-patient ratio in public hospitals, which is higher than private hospitals. And the government nurses are paid higher salaries and wages compared with their counterparts in private hospitals.

The hospital experience

When asked about providing “positive memorable hospital experience,” the respondents had a close split score with only (+) 2 rating. Higher mean rating is given to private hospitals at 3.05 compared with 2.8 mean score of the public hospitals.

When asked if they “felt special in the hospital,” 59 percent disagreed giving it a (-) 18 rating. In a related question about if hospital provided for “meaningful experience,” 53 percent agreed. Hospital facilities are rated comfortable at (+) 32 or by 66 percent of the respondents. Meanwhile, laboratory enjoys the highest rating for its “reliability” with (+) 76 approval rating by 88 percent of the respondents. The “fast service” of the hospitals suffered a (-) 14 approval rating while “food served in the hospitals” given a (-) 24 approval rating. The accessibility of the hospitals is approved by (+) 78.

The respondents gave a (+) 20 rating in hospitals engagement in socially relevant activities.

Hospitalization is not a happy experience but may be remembered for its valuable moments. This seems to be the challenging area in hospital service delivery system that hospitals should figure out and strategize about.

The cost of hospital experience

The 61 percent disagreed that the price of hospital fees are fair and affordable giving it a (-) 22 rating but the respondents agreed that they “got service worth the value of their money at (+)10 rating with 54 percent in agreement. It is in this area that the public hospitals got a higher mean score of 3.04 compared with 2.84 for private hospitals.

The private hospital experience may be costly considering the very complicated health-care system and the lack of government support for its private operations. Many private hospitals are suffering from the blows of the economic and health impact of this pandemic experience along with other issues like that with Philippine Health Insurance Corporation. The late president of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc (PHAPI), Dr. Rustico Jimenez, died crying for the resuscitation of the dying hospitals that resuscitate the dying Filipinos.

The professional assurance

Dr. Jose Rene de Grano, the new president of the PHAPI assures that the hospital is safe than what everybody thinks. He asserts that the strictest health and safety protocols are being observed by highly trained professionals in order to ensure the safety of all patients, relatives and hospital employees. He pointed out that the possible infectious cases are screened and segregated from the non-infectious ones. “With all the safety standards, hospitals are one of the safest places to go during this pandemic, even safer than most public places,” he assures.

Dr. Bu C. Castro, former president of Association of Allied Health Organizations of the Nations, Philippine Medical Association and Philippine Hospitals Association (PHA) notes that a hospital is a refuge not only for the sick but also for the healthy to remain healthy.

Dr. Jaime Arnibal Almora, the current president of the PHA, pointed out that if indeed health is wealth, one would want the best service to promote and restore it, at all cost. As a doctor, he has this to ask, “if you cannot trust your hospital or your health professional, who else can you trust?”

Indeed, if there is any time in our history when we should give the highest appreciation of these medical institutions and their health service frontliners, it is now. For many, these hospitals become witness to our first footprint at birth and our final footprint as well.

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1 comment

  1. Our opd dept suffered a lot up to this time.People are still afraid to go to the hosp but rather choose to go to private free standing clinics .The concept that hospitals are treating covid pts alarms them.In my opinion ,there should be a massive education campaign of the public by the govt agency involved to save our private hosp from closing down.

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