AT THE back of the JR Borja Memorial Hospital, beside the hospital morgue, is a one-story building enclosed in man-high, steel meshed fence.
This white building, previously abandoned, is a sanctuary of sorts for the city's abandoned citizens -- mentally-challenged individuals, persons with disabilities (PWDs), and the elderly.
The sanctuary, called the Residential Care and Differently-Abled Center, has 10 rooms.
The rooms are bare save for a few old wooden furniture, a few cots, and residents' bags with old clothes and some personal effects.
Stella Ferrarez of the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWD) said the mentally challenged, PWDs, and the elderly should have different intervention programs but due to budget limitations, the CSWD has had no choice but to house them under one roof.
"Lahi man gud dapat ang dynamics, lahi ang pamaagi to handle sa kaning mga elders and mentally-challenged, so you can just imagine what we have to put through kung kini sila magka-gubot," Ferrarez, head of CSWD's Psychosocial Unit, said.
Ferrarez said the center, established in 2013, has funds just enough to feed its 50 residents.
Ferrarez said the CSWD allots P55.00 per day for each resident or about P9.00 per meal.
There are no funds for other needs such as adult diapers, bath soap, toothpaste, and other essentials.
Not even for prescription medicines, even for the center's mentally-challenged residents.
In 2014, the CSWD proposed an increase in the budget for meals, from the P55.00 to P100.
But, Ferrarez said this was not approved by the City Council.
A resident said they once had noodles for a whole week.
"Nag-lain na among tiyan kay sumo kaayo sige ra man ta ug noodles," she said.
Ferrarez said they are sometimes forced to rely on donations because of the lack of supplies.
"But mostly gina-singit lang gayud namo ang expenses sa medicines sa uban na program sa CSWD aron lang gayud makakuha ug medisina kay mo-worst gayud baya ang ilang sitwasyon kung ma-undang ilang tambal," Ferrarez said.
Despite the center's prevailing situation, Ferrarez said they are planning to transform it into an Acute Psychiatric Unit (APU).
The APU, she said, is where distressed patients will be admitted for immediate treatment.
Ferrarez said she envisions the APU as a semi-hospital.
Ferrarez said the APU could serve as a half-way house for patients who will eventually be brought to Davao City's Southern Philippines Medical Center, psychiatric institution with which the City has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
"As far as I can remember, kini nga administration pa gayud naka-establish ug concrete project for mental health," she said.
With enough support from the City Government, Ferrarez said she hopes the APU will materialize.
"We will be able to cater those mentally-ill because they too are human beings, they also deserve the kind of treatment a normal person gets," Ferrarez noted.
Source: Sun Star