Time was short and decisions were necessary. Now.
So they came up with a plan to surround Mariveles District Hospital with portable toilets and park a water tanker truck outside to supply water. It was far from ideal, but they were looking at a disaster.
Scott Zimmer, of St. Paul, and an advance team of a handful of other Minnesotans came to the Philippines a week before the main contingent of doctors, nurses and others. The bulk of the Twin Cities’ volunteers arrived in Mariveles on Saturday on a medical mission that would have them open the new hospital and christen it with thousands of local patients in the week ahead.
Zimmer and others, however, wondered only days earlier if they should scrub the mission and tell everyone to stay home.
The building, which had been saved from the scrap heap and slowly remodeled over the past four years, was nowhere near ready for patients. There was no water, no sewer, no electricity, no back-up generator on site and no ceiling fixtures. All are fairly critical elements in a hospital.
I’ve been on projects before where we’ve been behind and under pressure,” Zimmer said, “but never like this one where it came to the point of, ‘are we going to cancel?’ ”
Members of the advance team gathered and decided they had to go forward. A contingency plan, which consisted of the portable toilets and tanker truck, was drawn up. Meantime, the workers soldiered on.
“Our pinnacle moment was Friday,” Zimmer said. “That’s when we knew we could make it work.”
There is no casting blame for the problems, just a determination to get them fixed. Things are done differently in the Philippines and Zimmer accepts that. For instance: Last week he called a plumber, who showed up with no tools. He tightened everything by hand. That might work in some places, but it left the hospital with a lot of leaks.
Most have been fixed, but on Saturday the doctors, nurses and others were told that if they saw any leaks they should report them and they would be repaired.
And so it goes in the 24 hours before the patients arrive. Construction workers and doctors brush shoulders in the hallways as they prepare for the opening.
Zimmer, a Realtor and property investor who has a background in construction as well as hospital operations, has a quiet confidence. You can sense he feels a minor miracle has occurred. Much credit is given to members of the advance team.
“We know each other so well that we can predict each other’s thoughts and actions,” he said. “It has really been a team effort.”
With his varied background, he was asked what his title was on this project. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll text (mission coordinator Dr. Bernard Quebal) and ask.”
A few minutes later, Quebral texted back a two-word title: The Savior.