Nightly News   |  November 11, 2013

Heroic doctors toil to save patients in Tacloban hospital

At the Divine Word Hospital in Tacloban, the doctors and other hospital staff are scrambling to save patients, despite having few medical supplies and no power for lights or refrigeration. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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>>> also among the members of our team on the ground covering the story in the philippines, our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman . she made her way by air to one of the hospitals in tacloban . on her way there she witnessed some of the worst devastation which is all the more alarming in the before and after photographs of the region. once on the ground she saw some of the patient who is are now enduring desperate hours. tonight, nancy is on one of the neighboring islands of cebu. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. with roads blocked, ferries not running and airports closed, we jumped on a chopper and headed to tacloban to check on the possibility of a developing health care crisis. from the air, we see stunning devastation. you pass over the mountains it looks like a major project . the trees are stripped. then you get into the fertile farming area and everything is flooded. villages along the coast wiped out by the tidal surge that left the city of tacloban in runs. we made our way to divine word hospital, officially closed for business, but people still come. this doctor scrambled to save lives and meddle call supplies.

>> we tried to salvage what was left of the pharmacy. the emergency room .

>> reporter: the lobby has been convert into a treatment area. with bandages and anti-septic left, they can't handle more than simple cuts and abrasions. this woman arrived in labor. the staff is living on little sleep.

>> you have no generator, no light. there is no security. across the city, the scarcity of food, fresh water , and sanitation is setting the stang for a public health nightmare. are you worried about cases of dysentary?

>> definitely. we have no potable water source here.

>> did patients die because you couldn't treat them?

>> well, somehow. we were out of resources. we just made the most of what we had. even as doctors, we didn't go to our families immediately. we stayed with the patients.

>> reporter: even post operative patients were sent home because of lack of medicine. patient who is died were moved into a makeshift morgue.

>> this is where we kept the bodies. they were actually patients. when the power was out, the water was out. no more medication because our pharmacy was destroyed.

>> reporter: it has to be tough to know you can't save everyone.

>> yes, ma'am.

>> reporter: when patients come in now. they are hungry, have had no water and they are hurting, what do you say to them?

>> we just say we're sorry.

>> reporter: this is the beginning of a tropical depression moving into the same place that was ravaged just five days ago. the concern is this could further damage the water supply and put already vulnerable people at risk for dysentary, diarrhea and other infectious diseases .

>> nancy snyderman on c ergs bu tonight . this is a very sad story. the philippines