WHEN BARRIO doctor Richard Lariosa arrived in Tagapul-an, Samar in 2002, he was surprised to learn that medicines for the town were being kept at the mayor’s office. “When you gave a prescription to a patient not of the same political color as the mayor, he’d be told by the people at the mayor’s office there was no medicine even when they were still a lot,” the doctor says. “Color coding.”
ALLAN EVANGELISTA of Quezon City signed up with the Doctors to the Barrio program last year despite suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy, an incurable disease of the heart muscle that actor Aga Muhlach introduced to Filipinos through his 2004 movie “All My Life.”
THE YOUNG mother was frantic. A seven-month-old baby was burning with fever in her arms, barely able to breathe. The doctor at the rural health unit quickly attended to the child, who was suffering from serious respiratory tract infection. But she had no medicine to give the baby: her supply of Ventolin or salbutamol, which would have given the infant instant relief, had run out.
WHEN RCHARD Lariosa passed the medical board exam in late 2001, he did one thing most new doctors would not even think of. Then 26, Lariosa passed up residency training and applied at the Department of Health (DOH) to be a barrio doctor.
Eight months later, the young doctor was on an outrigger to Tagapul-an, a fifth-class mountainous island town in Western Samar oft-buffeted by the fickle, perilous amihan and habagat, or the northeast and southwest monsoons.