July 23, 2020 was a tragic day for me.
I lost my youngest daughter — Yana Bautista — due to our country’s dysfunctional healthcare system.
Yana was a lively, gregarious, spirited, and beautiful 17-year old teenager who was set to play for the Ateneo UAAP women football team and take up a course in AB Interdisciplinary Studies. Like any normal teenager, Yana loved to navigate the social media, dress-up like Kylie Jenner, and go out to clubs with her squad.
I have always treated Yana like a baby since she was my youngest. But little did I know that Yana had natural leadership instincts and skills relied upon by her teammates, counselled friends in times of distress, and was a designated ringleader during nightly escapades. She was, in a truest sense, a daughter’s father.
For some quirk of fate during the March lockdown, Yana started experiencing numbness on her toes, weaknesses in her right arm, then her left leg and eventually spreading to her entire body. We went to one of the country’s top and exclusive private hospitals and doctors there could not diagnose her illness. She was first thought to be afflicted with encephalitis.
We had to transfer to a state hospital built during Marcos’ time because there was a doctor specialist who might be able to help us. My wife and I were aghast on bringing Yana to public hospitals since they were known to be a petri dish of coronavirus. But we ran out of any options. She was initially suspected to suffer from Guillain-Barre syndrome but the speed on which the disease consumed her was alarming to her doctor.
We were advised to take an EMG in another government hospital to determine if Yana has any neuromuscular abnormalities. She was also tasked to take a COVID-19 swab test where by now she was found positive for the infection.
When we went back to the hospital to have her admitted, we were shunned away because of her COVID-19 infection and the absence of beds to accommodate her. Forced to transfer to another hospital, we were finally admitted only after our physician explained her condition not as COVID-19 but encephalitis.
Throughout the experience, I came to the realization of how truly dysfunctional our healthcare system is and how the data systems work in silos. The horror stories of poor and low-income patients who are marginalized by the health system were not totally exaggerated. If you are poor, the cards are stacked against you to get good treatment, recover and sadly, even to survive. It was heart wrenching to see a string of black body bags paraded across us.
During those critical stages of Yana’s confinement, we were asked to purchase the sought-after Remdesivir, the first drug found effective to fight the coronavirus. It was another station of the cross to obtain the drug due to the swelling demand from patients. We had to directly coordinate with the importers and suppliers of the drug. Through well-meaning friends, Yana got access to Remdesivir which was supposed to have saved her.
However, after days of stable vital signs, Yana bade peacefully goodbye to my family. Her loss was indescribably sorrowful to us, her teammates, coaches, classmates, and loved ones. As I often grieve at nighttime, I would reminisce about her wide smile, strength, courage, and lack of any rancor. If Yana had lived, she would not blame anyone but would do something to improve the situation.
YanaCare Health Initiative
During her wake, I caught up with a dear friend and UP MPA classmate way back in 2001, Dale David, who now runs a software company that produces an integrated healthcare system for the private sector. There was a strong alignment between our common mission and aspiration. Not many would also know that Dale lost his mother in a tragic vehicular accident and he, of all people, empathizes with the pain and grief I was going through.
Like Yana, Dale would rather do something about the problem rather than be consumed with grief, blame or even anger. Together, we created the YanaCare Initiative, which aims to identify and bring on board selected cities, municipalities, and provinces to pilot-test the MYCURE Integrated Health Care Information System from the grassroots level. This would address the myriad dysfunctions of our country’s healthcare system, such as the disaggregated health data sets, absence of telehealth medicine, low linkages of databases between private and public hospitals, and lack of health information dashboards for informed-policy making.
YanaCare initiative shall realize the integration of the country’s healthcare information system by 2022. With God’s mercy, no one should ever experience the pain of losing a loved one because of our dysfunctional healthcare system. Meanwhile, Yana will be smiling with joy and happiness as she kicks the football for our team’s goal.
— Dr. Lloyd Bautista, DPA
Dr. Lloyd Bautista is an educator, researcher and consultant in different institutions, such as the Ateneo School of Government, Development Academy of the Philippines, Philippine Public Safety College, National Defense College of the Philippines, and University of Makati. He has written journals and worked in the public service for over two decades now.