In the data of UNICEF in 2009, Philippines ranked the highest in the world for having the most number of maternal deaths. About 165/100,000 per year die due to child birth. Last year it rose to 220/100,000. So what is the big deal? Maternal Health is an important indicator of the government’s performance in improving the health of its citizenry. Meaning, the higher the rate of maternal death, the poorer the delivery of health service of the government.
This raises now the question of the timing of privatization of hospitals. There are about 31 government hospitals in the country gearing for privatization. My concern is, how will that help improve the delivery of health in our country? By allowing privatization of health institutions, this will cause a significant increase in the cost of our healthcare. As of the moment, the Philippines has one of the most expensive medicines in the region. The cost medical services will significantly rise with privatization of the government hospitals.
UN has a millennium goal of decreasing maternal deaths to an allowable 50/100,000 by 2015. That is 3 years away from now. How will we be able to comply? Looking at the figures, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to turn the maternal death rate down to the millennium goal. Unless by sheer misfortune our country gets bombed and two thirds of the fertile population gets wiped out.
If we do not address our healthcare issues now, our government will never see the light of day whoever will seat in the presidency, senate or congress in 2016. To the candidates next year (who are campaigning as early as now), I pose this challenge:
1. Implement a standardized salary scheme for our health workers. (Doctors, Nurses, Allied personnel). A 1st year medical resident takes home P18,000 after a 36 hour duty. He basically lives and breathes the hospital. Neglecting his personal life and family. I know, he is in training, and that is the way that it’s been done. A registered Nurse has an average salary of 12,000, goes on a 12 hour duty with NO OVERTIME PAY.
2. Open up positions in the hospitals with proper and ideal Doctor/Nurse: patient ratio. A resident doctor sees ALL the patients in the ward, that’s about 50-70. A Nurse tends to ALL the patients in her shift. Maybe about 30-50. In some regional hospitals, there is only 1 Nurse and 1 Doctor per shift/rotation. Let us STOP SLAVERY IN THE HEALTH SECTOR.
3. Make Community Medicine and Community Health Nursing work. This scheme of healthcare delivery was popularized by then DOH SEC Juan Flavier. How I admire his programs that we still make use of up to now. He deployed Doctors to the barrios. There was a system of referral from primary to secondary to tertiary level. His programs: Immunization Campaign, Fortification of food, propagation of herbal medicine were very effective in the prevention of illness and diseases in the grassroots level. If we deploy health workers to communities, then we can help prevent the progression of some illnesses and diseases. We can empower the community by helping them become more self reliant. We can save MILLIONS of pesos in Philhealth expenditure. We can have healthy community.
4. Enact programs to protect the health of the people. Pass the RH Bill. Please. Please. Please. I know you will roll your eyes at the thought of grade 5 students being taught Sex Education. That is okay. At some point, kids should be taught responsible sexual behavior to anticipate for raging hormones. I don’t mean that they will be given contraceptives and exposed to pornography. An early education on sex will teach them to understand their bodies and lead them to be more responsible. Let us stop all these hypocrisy. Whoever says that Sex education will pollute the minds of our children actually has a polluted mind.
5. Health is a basic, fundamental right. Hospitals should deliver service. It should not exist merely for propagation of business or capital. It should serve by ensuring safe quality care. NO TO PRIVATIZATION of health institutions. The Government should ensure the delivery of this basic right to its citizenry.
I have seen indigents die without receiving proper medical attention. A father rushing his son to the hospital who was found bleeding profusely, found out later on that his son had dengue. He did not have enough money to go to the hospital, so he sought consult with a local herbalist who opted to place leaves on the forehead of the child while having fever. The child died after a few hours. I have heard the screams of a mother who delivered for the 7th time. The father can not be with her as he was a daily wage earner, and couln’t bear to be absent from work. She had to bring her three other kids with her to the lyng in when she was about to give birth. I saw the perenial (genital) area of a mother who just delivered two days before. She had to undergo re suturing, she did not have enough money for an anesthesia, so she was whimpering throughout the whole procedure sans pain medication.
I can not imagine the future of our healthcare system if we just stand and stare as all these things progress. I do hope the DOH and the local governement will make proactive programs to benefit the people.