Doctors, journalists asked to meet halfway over prov’l hospital coverage

By Leilanie G. Adriano

Staff Reporters

MEDICAL practitioners and media persons covering the Gov. Roque B. Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital (GRBASMH), or more popularly known locally as the provincial hospital, have agreed to “meet halfway” in the coverage of hospital-related issues after an official of the said hospital earlier put up a new media policy in the acquisition and dissemination of any information about patients as well as other hospital transactions.

In a dialogue facilitated by Ilocos Norte Gov. Michael M. Keon held September 5 at the hospital’s conference room and attended by members of the local tri-media and chief of hospital Dr. Llewelyn Santos, at least seven media protocols were presented. Beat reporters must abide by the said protocols when obtaining reports.

Journalists however believe that the new media policy came out as a result of the media reporting of an alleged “misconduct and neglect of duty” of a physician in treating a patient. The said physician, identified as Dr. Emma Peña, was suspended barely two months ago by Keon after a complaint was filed against her in 2004 and the subsequent investigation of the said controversy.

In the said new media protocols, media persons are now banned from entering inside the emergency room. They are also prohibited from interviewing patients or their relatives inside wards and treatment areas. A social service room, however, would be made available for possible interviews with patients but this would only be during visiting hours.

Reacting to these new protocols, local media practitioners suggested that the hospital officials amend this for the sake of public interest and the public’s right to information.

They added that while it is true that a patient’s “right to privacy” should be maintained by his physician, local journalists pointed out that should not be prohibited from interviewing, taking pictures and video footages of patients and their relatives if the patient or his relatives give consent.

The new media protocols also effectively advise media practitioners to ask permission from first from the provincial health officer or the chief of hospital before they can obtain news reports from the hospital.

With the stalemate, Keon said both parties should put forth their respective suggestions and then try to meet halfway.

A second dialogue between the parties is being sought but no schedule has been given as of press time.

Keon, for his part, said the media should not be totally banned from gathering information at the hospital except on special cases concerning public health.(Ilocos Times)

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