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Surgeon’s lawyer says more names to be revealed, bares fate of student
By Nancy R. Cudis
Sun.Star Staff Reporter

AMID calls for sanctions on the team that performed the now controversial operation, Cebu Gov. Gwen-dolyn Garcia is renewing her call for Capitol to take over the primary and secondary services of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC).

And this time, she said the Capitol can take responsibility for the hospital’s tertiary first level services as well.

“If the Province will handle this, at least our constituents will be given better treatment because I see to it that they will be treated humanely,” she said, adding that the Local Government Code specifically provides that these services should be handled by the Provincial Government.

The governor said she has heard “so many horror stories from our constituents from the south of how rudely they were treated by (VSMMC) personnel.”

“These questionable goings-on involve primary and secondary services. You connect the dots and figure it out…This highlights the fact that indeed there is a need for radical change, especially in the attitude and delivery of services of VSMMC,” said Garcia.

Capitol’s proposal to take over the hospital’s primary and secondary services was first brought up in 2006, when the Department of Health (DOH) made the offer. No agreement was reached, however, after DOH officials later withdrew their offer.

Garcia said Capitol is willing to discuss all issues so the provincial government could assume responsibility in handling primary and secondary services “primarily for the good of our constituents.”

Rude treatment

“If this person (Jan-Jan) was humiliated by the behavior of this surgeon and nurses of that incident, let me tell you that our constituents undergo the same rude treatment,” said Garcia.

As this developed, Dr. Philips Leo Arias, whom the health department identified as the head surgeon in the Jan. 3 surgery of a 39-year-old patient at the VSMMC, aired his side yesterday through lawyer Merlo Bagano.

The patient, a florist from Barangay Basak-Pardo, Cebu City, underwent a procedure to remove a body spray canister that got stuck in his rectum through a male sex partner. The operation was captured on camera and uploaded to YouTube, a video sharing website.

Arias was identified as part of the medical team attending to Jan-Jan, the patient, along with Dr. Angelo Alinawagan, assistant surgeon; Dr. Max Joseph Montecillo, surgeon assigned in an adjacent operating room; Rosemarie Villareal, nursing attendant; and Carmiña Sapio, circulating nurse.

In a radio dyAB interview, Bagano said Arias has always been professional and did not make fun during the operation.

In the video, the surgeon could be heard giving out instructions. But Bagano said it wasn’t Arias who called the canister as “baby.”

The lawyer also said that the emergency operating room was at first only confined to the medical team involved. Then other persons started coming in and making noise behind the doctor.

The video captured people giggling, jeering, and cheering before and after the canister was taken out.


Bagano said that Arias’ act of laughing was “merely an expression of relief.”

He said there was still a “high-ranking official” in the operating room at that time, whom Arias could not identify yet.

Eventually, as the joint investigation of VSMMC and DOH continues, more names will be added to the list, the lawyer said.

VSMMC media liaison officer Dr. Emmanuel Gines said Arias is a resident surgeon under training in the Department of Surgery.

He explained that a resident physician has an on-call consultant or senior doctor for every case.

“The case is presented to the consultant. A resident doctor is supervised but it is not necessary that a consultant has to be present in the operating room especially if the consultant is confident on the skills of the doctor. But before every case, a consultant and a resident doctor meets to discuss,” he said.

He, however, could not answer if there were consultants during Jan-Jan’s operation. But he assured that there was a discussion of the case between the doctor and the consultant before the operation. He added that a consultant is part of the hospital’s fact-finding committee.

Bagano also said that Arias had assured the patient that the video taken during the operation would remain confidential. When he saw it was uploaded to YouTube, he
immediately approached VSMMC administration and asked them to investigate.

VSMMC, in a press briefing earlier, said they did not take the incident lightly and immediately created a fact-finding committee even without receiving a formal complaint.

Security reasons

Bagano said they hope the public will understand that for security reasons, Arias chose to remain quiet. He was set to meet the Arias family yesterday to discuss the case.

In a separate interview with dyLA, Bagano said a student of Gullas School of Medicine uploaded the video to YouTube and the student was not able to graduate because of the incident.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque, in a GMANews.TV report, said they will use the video in the filing of charges.

“But we have to determine first the specific liability of each respondent,” he said.

Commission on Higher Education (Ched) 7 Director Enrique Grecia, for his part, asked that the student not be blamed as he was only “misguided.”

Still, it is up to the school to give due process to the student before imposing sanctions.

“I suggest that the hospital revisit the operating room policies. Probably, they need to prepare a new set. I believe that the curriculum of nursing program is enough for the nurses and doctors to be qualified,” he said in a TV Patrol News report.

Meanwhile, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, in an ABS-CBN TV Patrol report, called for the cancellation of the licenses of the medical team.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippine Cebu chapter also called for an investigation of the person who inserted the canister into Jan-Jan’s rectum. The group said he should also be sanctioned.

Ched’s technical committee on nursing education chairperson Dr. Maria Teresita Sinda, meanwhgile, suggested the revocation of the license of the clinical instructor (CI) of the student nurse who uploaded the video.

Ched will wait for the action of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). PRC, for its part, is waiting for a formal complaint on the case before it can investigate.

Seeing there was clear violation of the code of ethics, the PRC said that sanctions for misconduct could range from suspension to revocation of licenses. (With GMD)


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