Tulfo’s hospital tantrum
“Ipa-Tulfo mo!” has become a rallying cry for the oppressed, a recourse for the Filipino everyman in need of a helper or arbiter. We feel vindicated whenever someone on the Tulfos’ public service program gets their just desserts. We love seeing the Tulfos meting out their form of justice, and I think many of us will agree that, sometimes, it feels very rewarding to hear their words “gago ka!” thrown about.
It is far less satisfying when the recipient of the invective is someone who doesn’t deserve it — such as any one of the many underpaid and harried health professionals in an understaffed emergency room operating at full capacity, and undergoing renovations at that. I’m not sure what Ramon Tulfo was thinking when, earlier this week, he posted a two-minute video of himself at the Philippine General Hospital’s (PGH) emergency room.
He relates how his driver bumped a little girl in Navotas and how they had taken her to the ER, only to be seen by a doctor who refused to give the girl first aid. Nothing in the video reflects this. They show the doctor at the triage attending to the patient and taking down her information. The patient herself was visually stable, if alarmed by all the noise and the video being taken. The video also shows Tulfo harassing the medical staff and saying “gago ka!” and worse, several times.
Why someone would be proud of this behavior is unimaginable. He clearly expected sympathy, maybe praise, for telling supposedly inconsiderate health workers what’s what, continuing a years-long tradition of doctor-shaming that ignores public decency, as well as laws on patient privacy and cybercrime.
The Legal Office of the PGH has issued a memorandum of the facts, and the All UP Academic Employees Union, Manila Chapter, has released a statement condemning Tulfo, calling for legal action. Still, Tulfo ploughs on, the bastion of ignorance and arrogance. His new Facebook post described the PGH ER thus: “parang palengke ito at hindi ospital.” He described patients lying on the floor, not being attended to, and ended the post with yet another ad hominem attack against PGH doctors: “Porke ba dahil mayayaman sila at ang mga pasyente nila ay dukha?”
His comments are deaf and blind to facts about the concept of triage, the renovations in the PGH ER that closed off parts of the unit, and the number of better-equipped and better-staffed hospitals they must have ignored on the way from Navotas to PGH. After all, who cares about a triage system designed to treat real emergencies first, and those with minor scrapes (as sustained by Tulfo’s child-patient) a little later? Tulfo’s Facebook cover photo now says “#YesToPatientFirst” — by which, of course, he means “My patient first.”
If only his comments were true, and PGH doctors were in fact all rich. If only it were true that the patients lying on the floor rather than on proper beds were because of some lack of concern on the part of the hospital’s staff members. Alas, as my own pockets will attest, PGH trainees are not necessarily wealthy; and no amount of personal riches will ever be able to combat the systemic ills plaguing the Philippine hospital and healthcare system.
Let’s say no more about the hardships that doctors and nurses endure to care for their patients, especially in microcosms such as PGH where resources are always lacking. Let’s say no more about missed holidays and inhumane working hours, because these are the lot of doctors everywhere, and because we already know it’s difficult and often thankless.
We can take the bullying, and, in fact, we often do. Tulfo refuses to be educated, but on our part, this is an opportunity to help the public to be more aware of where and how to avail themselves of health services, and to allow triage systems to do their work.
We can talk about how healthcare for Filipinos should be one of the first priorities in the long list of the government’s responsibilities. Can we “ipa-Tulfo” Tulfo? In a system that pushes the blame onto frontliners, namely doctors and nurses, we can take the bullying. But, as the little girl in the video reminds us with her frightened eyes, the patients shouldn’t have to suffer in the crossfire.
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