Serving both locals and tourists in Boracay, the sea ambulance initiated by Senator Pia Cayetano is a vital part of the island’s medical response system
Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan, is a world-class beach destination famous for its white, powdery sand, long coastline, and crystal-clear waters.
But what many probably don’t know about this tourist paradise is that it also hosts a community of Malaynons.
Serving the health needs of both the community and Boracay’s bustling tourism industry is the Ciriaco S. Tirol Hospital (CSTH), a local government-run primary healthcare facility.
Being an island requires the regular ferrying of patients who need further medical treatment from Boracay to the Aklan province mainland, where bigger medical centers are located.
Since last year, a lone sea ambulance has been carrying out that task – a project jointly funded by Senator Pia S. Cayetano, a staunch health advocate, and the Aklan provincial government. Serving both locals and tourists in Boracay, the sea ambulance is a vital part of the island’s medical response system.
Dr. Karl Mark Lachica, chief of hospital of CSTH, shared that since they received the sea ambulance last year, the vessel has already ferried more than a thousand patients from Boracay to the mainland province.
“The sea ambulance has been very beneficial to us,” Dr. Lachica said. “We did not have a sea ambulance before, and so we utilized the sea ambulance of the municipal government. But it cannot be used during extreme weather conditions.”
Dr. Lachica said he was very particular about the technical specifications of the sea ambulance that the hospital needed, which is one that can be deployed for emergencies even during rough weather. The result was a 32-foot fiberglass sea ambulance equipped with a twin 140-horsepower 4-stroke outboard motor.
It was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Lachica recalled, when the sea ambulance was extensively used. “COVID patients were ferried using the sea ambulance; it was our main means of transporting them safely,” he recalled.
Meanwhile, Dr. Vivian Eustaquio, who heads the medical assistance team of Senator Cayetano, said the sea ambulance was the senator’s initiative in order to facilitate medical response for health emergencies that occur in the beach destination.
Dr. Eustaquio and Senator Cayetano’s Team Pinay In Action (PIA) traveled to the municipalities of Kalibo (July 19) and Malay (July 20) in Aklan to conduct seminars on maternal and child healthcare for mothers, barangay health workers, and barangay nutrition scholars.
After conducting a community seminar in Malay, the team took the opportunity to visit the CSTH to check the state of its medical facilities – including the sea ambulance.
“We would like to thank Senator Pia Cayetano for providing us the budget for the sea ambulance, which is a big help for the people of Malay,” Dr. Lachica told the team.
If he could have a wish list, Dr. Lachica said he would want to have a second sea ambulance, preferably a bigger one, to enable CSTH to cater to more patients.
“We have many patient referrals here going to the mainland, and there are also requests coming from the mainland to ferry their patients back,” he pointed out.
Dr. Lachica explained that as the patient referrals keep rising, the sea ambulance also requires regular maintenance work. And so there are really instances when the vessel could not be deployed even if there’s an emergency.
“Eventually, we would need another sea ambulance so that we won’t have any more downtime,” he concluded. #