It was a remote possibility that a hospital be born in this part of the province during the Pre-Martial Law era when politics played a major role in the socio-economic activities of the people, not until a new brand of leadership emerged into brighter perspective.
Grateful appreciation and gratitude of the constituents of the municipalities of the northern part of Benguet Province goes to the Honorable Andres AcopCosalan, then congressional Representative lone district of Benguet Province and Baguio City, who painstakingly initiated and authored House Bill Number 4884 under his legislative program in 1967, which became Law under Republic Act Number 4956, establishing the Atok Emergency Hospital situated at Sayangan, Bario of Paoay, Municipality of Atok, Benguet Province.
As envisioned by the author of this particular Law, this hospital principally serves more than one hundred thousand (100,000) more or less towns people of the municipalities of Atok and barrio residents of three neighboring towns of Bakun, Buguias, Kibungan, Kabayan, Mankayan, Bokod and Tublay, all located in the Northern Benguet Province, notwithstanding the travelling public tourists and commuters along the Halsema Highway leading to the Northern Luzon Provinces via Bontoc, Mountain Province, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur and Lagawe, Ifugao Province.
The ground work in the preparation and organization of the hospital started with the designation of Dr. Bayani N. Genabe, Chief of Benguet General Hospital as officer-in-charge by the Secretary of Health under Department of Health Order No. 145-B dated April 4, 1972. While Dr. Genabe was busy attending to staff recruitment, purchase of materials and equipment for the initial operation of the hospital, the Atok Municipal Council under the leadership of Mayor John T. Haight took immediate cognizance of the Republic Act passed municipal council Resolution No. 15 dated May 15, 1973 offering to sell the two storey Marcos type Municipal Branch Office building which was then appraised at P49,000.00 and subsequently waiving their right unconditionally over the 1,420 square meters of land on which the building stands.
The only government hospital then located in the multi-million vegetable industry in the province of Benguet after having been set up by Dr. Genabe finally opened its services to the general public in a simple inaugural rite on July 16, 1973 with the appointment of Dr. Valerio B. Combate a transferee from Pinukpuk Emergency Hospital, Kalinga, Apayao as the first Chief of Hospital.
Not long afterwards, the former Chief of Hospital took a leave of absence and Dr. Edgardo Bolompo assumed the responsibilities as officer-incharge until the end of January, 1975 when Dr. Combate finally resigned from his position.
Another change took place when another young and unassuming Senior Resident Physician of Benguet General Hospital in the person of Dr. Salvador V. Villamater was promoted to the vacated position as Chief of Hospital o February 1, 1975. That year there were already a total of twenty three (23) regular and Two(2) casual employees.
From 1977 to 1983, to accommodate the demand for wider space due to tremendous increase in hospital patients and activities, a three (3) storey building was constructed and completed, namely the administration building, annex B building and doctor's quarter.
In 1981, Primary Health Care was the major thrust of the Ministry of Health that integrated public health and hospital services. The hospital then became the Atok District Hospital to serve the municipalities of Atok, Bakun, Buguias and Mankayan as its catchment areas.
The untimely death of Dr. Villamater in December 1987 brought another change in the leadership of the hospital with the designation as Officer-in-Charge of Dr. Emil Cadayona, the Assistant Provincial Health Officer (now with DOH-CO, Manila), Dr. Brigida Claro ( now an MS of BGH-MC), Dr. Kenneth Ronquillo (now with the HEMDTS-DOH, Manila) who were then regular resident physicians and Mrs. Edna Sebio, Administrative Officer took turns in managing the hospital until September 1, 1989 when Dr. Esteban Piok, Medical Officer V of Dennis Molintas Memorial Hospital was appointed as the third chief of hospital.
The July 16, 1990 killer earthquake did not spare the hospital with the main building heavily damaged together with the other buildings. Profound gratitude goes to Honorable Samuel Dangwa, congressman of Benguet Province and to Dr. JuvencioOrduna, the newly appointed Regional Director – CAR and Dr. SaturninoBayasen, the Provincial Health Officer of Benguet, hiked from La Trinidad, Benguet to Sayangan, Atok, to personally see the damages caused by the earthquake. They were all instrumental in the rehabilitation and construction of two (2) two-storey hospital buildings which were inaugurated last May 9, 1992 by Secretary of Health, Dr. Antonio Periquet. The other building was inaugurated last June 5, 1994 by Congressman Samuel Dangwa, Gov. Jaime Paul Panganiban and Directors Dr. JuvencioOrduna and Dr. Martha Cayad-an.
Republic Act Number 7257 which was approved on March 20, 1992 authorized the increase in bed capacity of the hospital from 25 to 50 beds. However, in 1993 with the implementation of Republic Act Number 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991, the hospital was devolved to the Provincial Government of Benguet to a 25 bed capacity hospital.
The promotion of Dr. Esteban Piok as Provincial Health Officer I paved the way for Dr. Winton A. Yap from Dennis Molintas Memorial Hospital to become the fourth Chief of Hospital of Atok District Hospital on March 16, 1995. The devolution of 1993 fragmented the health services between the hospitals and the Rural Health Units. In 1999, the Atok District Health System was established uniting the municipalities of Atok, Bakun, Buguias and Mankayan thru the initiative of Dr. Yap later becoming the Mountain Trail Inter-Local Health Zone. Atok District Hospital became the core referral hospital, Abatan Emergency Hospital as satellite hospital together with Atok, Bakun, Buguias and Mankayan.
The unexpected migration of Dr. Yap to the United States on 2006 left the hospital to a list of officers-in-charge for a year. It was February 7, 2007 that the first woman and the fifth Chief of Hospital assumed the position in the person of Dr. Nora M. Ruiz.
The major changes during the leadership of Dr. Ruiz were:
a. Acquisition of a new ambulance
b. Construction of the OR/DR complex through the Health Facility Enhancement Program of the Department of Health
It was April 1, 2014 that Dr. Nora Ruiz moved out of Atok District Hospital and assumed the position of Provincial Health Officer I. Dr. Joseph Giovanni C. Frias from Abatan Emergency Hospital took over as the new and sixth Chief of Hospital of the institution.
(Source: Google Map)