My Journey In Government - A Short Story

My work as a civil servant will be ending soon. I have served for 39 years...why so long, what made me stay? Well, for a thousand reasons that I will share in future posts. Right now, it is apt that I end my journey with a short story of my time in government, first as a resident physician, then as a hospital chief.

I started working for government in 1982. When I applied in the general hospital of our small city, my intention was far from altruistic. The reality was, I was waiting for a residency slot in Internal Medicine at the medical center I wanted to get into. The general hospital was only about 2 blocks away from my home and compensation was good, so I thought, why not? I was not planning to stay for long, but then life (and God) works in mysterious ways, that soon I was having a change of heart. For the first time in my adult life I felt I was in a good place doing what I am meant to do. Although I could not fully see yet what I wanted to happen in my life, I began to feel that this is the direction I should take.  I talked with my parents, my mentors, and they all said the same thing...to follow my heart. And so, my real journey began.  

My first year was very trying because of many factors. As a new and young doctor, it was difficult to be among older physicians and staff with set ways and fixed mindsets. But after a year, younger doctors joined the medical staff which made things a lot easier.  After 2 years as a resident physician, I had the opportunity of going the the Philippine Heart Center for in-service training.  I spent 4 months there, coming home with a realization that I am not meant for any specialization.  I live in a place where people need access to doctors who can attend to their basic health needs. That does not require any specialization.

In 1986, I applied to attend the Masters in Hospital Administration program of the UP School of Public Health. Unfortunately, I was considered by my then hospital chief as too young and inexperienced. But that did not daunt me. During this time, the hospital was still with the national government and any study grant should be approved by the DoH/MoH. I decided to enroll in the MBA program of the University of St. La Salle, with no government scholarship or permission, using my own resources and attending school only on my hours off.  Then in 1991, devolution happened because of the Local Government Code, and by 1993 the position of Chief of Hospital was declared vacant after transitioning from national to local government.  I am one of many who applied for the position, but the only one armed with an MBA.  I was appointed in 1995 and the rest is "history", as the old saying goes.

My real "Baptism of Fire" in government service began when I became hospital chief.  I knew that hospital management was a big job and being a government-run institution, bureaucracy is your biggest problem. Still, most aspects of running a hospital are demanding but not insurmountable. What I did not foresee was the human resource demands and challenges that went with it. When I was appointed, we were a small hospital of about 100 personnel.  Today, 26 years after, there are more than 600 hospital personnel comprising of regular, casual, contract of service and job orders. Can you picture it?  Of all the roles and responsibilities I had as Chief of Hospital, managing people was the most difficult to overcome.  Human behavior is so complex and people react differently to situations. The emotional, physical and mental issues have to be managed carefully, otherwise there could be dire consequences.  On several occasions I have acted as conflict mediator, marriage and guidance counselor, debt recovery consultant, et al.  I draw the line at lending services. 

I have reached the end of my journey in government. Do I have any regrets? There were many good times, but it was all hard work. Looking back, the whole journey can be compared to a roller coaster ride...a lot of ups and downs, and if you're like me (a strong person who is scared of heights)...you do it once, and never again.



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