Philippine health sector dying, says doctors’ alliance

With 200 hospitals halt their operations and about 800 have partially shut-down, the Philippine healthcare system is really, in deepest trouble.

ANTIPOLO CITY, March 15, 2010—A few days ago, news reports quoted former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez-Tan saying that there are 200 hospitals in the country had ceased its operations, while 800 more are now partially close due to the lack of health personnel.

Most of these hospitals are in the Visayas and in Mindanao, and majority of them are either run by the local government units or the national government itself.

Almagro Community Hospital in Western Samar, the Capul Municipal Hospital, Tangkil Municipal Hospital, Pangutaran District Hospital, Siasi District Hospital and Panamao District Hospital in Sulu, and the Sergio Osmena District Hospital in Zamboanga Del Norte are among the 200 hospitals that have ceased its operations because of the lack of health personnel; while the Calbayog District Hospital, Gandara District Hospital, Basey District Hospital and Tarangnan District Hospital in Western Samar, the Malipayon District Hospital, San Jose District Hospital and San Andres District Hospital in Romblon, and the Jolo Provincial Hospital are only operating “partially” due to same reason.

The State itself, aggravates the problem—HEAD

“It’s the government to blame for the Philippine health sector’s woes,” says the militant alliance of physicians, Health Alliance for Democracy (Head).

“The implementation of “backward” health policies by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration triggers the massive closure of health facilities and pushes health workers to go abroad, instead of serving the Filipino patients,” said Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, Head’s secretary-general, in a statement.

More and more nurses are going abroad

In 2008 data of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the State’s institution that is taking care of the labor export, reveals that professional nurses and caregivers constitute the 6.8 percent of the deployed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that year.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS) brief states that 70 percent of nursing graduate opt to work overseas, making the Philippines the biggest supplier of nurses.

The CCS also revealed that certain big hospitals have been losing an average of 10-12 nurses a month since 2001, and health staff retention remains an enormous challenge for the Philippines in order to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Health curriculum tailored for labor export

The 2006 World Health Report (WHR) published by the WHO reveals that the Philippine nursing curriculum is really designed for labor export.

“The Philippines, as part of a larger policy to encourage worker migration, has been training health workers, especially nurses, for export for many years—they constitute 76% of foreign nurse graduates in the United States, for example,” observes the WHO.

Labor export: a multibillion dollar industry

The movement of health workers abroad has redeeming features as it generates billions of dollars worth of remittances, which can help alleviate poverty of the sending country, said the WHR 2006.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported in January that the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including our nurses and doctors abroad, have sent back home US$17.9 billion worth of remittances in 2009, constituting the 10.8% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

For years, some government critics say, the Macapagal-Arroyo government has been dependent to the OFW remittance in order to keep the local economy afloat.

Setbacks

While the WHO sees health workers’ migration is a positive development in terms of skills training and development, as the nurses and doctors bring home new skills and methods they have acquired abroad, it has also its setback.

The WHO said, when large numbers of doctors and nurses leave, the countries that financed their education lose a return on their investment and end up unwillingly providing the wealthy countries to which their health personnel have migrated with a kind of “perverse subsidy.”

However financial loss is not the most damaging outcome of the Diaspora of health workers but the impact of it in the sector itself.

“When a country has a fragile health system, the loss of its workforce can bring the whole system close to collapse and the consequences can be measured in lives lost. In these circumstances, the calculus of international migration shifts from brain drain or gain to “fatal flows”,” the WHO report said. (Published in CBCPNews.com)