Stinky toilets, dirty hospital corridors not the real problems: ‘See the larger picture on health’ DOH told

ANTIPOLO CITY, August 6, 2010—Stinky toilets and smelly corridors are considered problems in many public hospitals in the country. However, for the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), an alliance of militant doctors and health workers said, it must not be the focus by the Department of Health.

In a statement sent to CBCPNews, Dr. Geneve Rivera, HEAD’s secretary-general said the Ospital PiNoy: Malinis, Mabango pilot project of the DOH is but “a myopic view of the gargantuan problems that the Philippine healthcare system is facing.

“When you go to any public hospital, you will immediately know the sad state of affairs from the long lines of patients, the broken or old medical equipment, the lack of supplies and medicine, and the overworked and overstretched health personnel,” says Rivera. “But if the Health Secretary, during his routine visits to some hospitals, only sees dirty hallways, or smells stinky toilets, there is something wrong there.”

For HEAD, it was the lack of access to quality healthcare services the primary problem that the Philippine Health Department must solve.

“State-run hospitals need so much more resources – finances, equipment, and personnel – in order to meet the needs of the Filipino people. The entire healthcare system must also be improved, starting with the basic health care center in the communities. It is a matter of perspective and priorities. Sadly, the DOH leadership seems to be sorely lacking in both,” Rivera explained.

‘Commercialization’ of healthcare system

Meanwhile, Rivera told CBCPNews that it was the privatization of healthcare services is to be blamed for the sorry state of Philippine healthcare sector

“As for maintaining good sanitation and hygiene in the health institutions, health secretary Enrique Ona conveniently forgets that the janitorial and maintenance services were the first victims to go under the DOH’s policy of privatization many years ago, as these services were subcontracted to private companies rather than being maintained by employed hospital staff to cut costs,” she added.

On the other hand, in 2009, the UP-based National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (NISMED), which has created the “Blueprint “Blueprint for Universal Healthcare, 2010-2015 and beyond,” says that the great disparity in access to and use of healthcare, resulting in significant differences in health status between the rich minority and the poor majority of Filipinos, is the main cause of deficiencies in the country’s healthcare system.

The UP-NISMED revealed that the health sector’s being controlled by the enterprising elite, whose members make healthcare services and goods barely affordable and accessible to those from the low income groups.

However, UP-NISMED continued, this “commercial dominance” is but a result of the national government’s failure to allocate sufficient budget for the Filipino healthcare needs.

In 2005, the national government has spent only a measly P200 billion in 2005, with 11 percent shouldered by social health insurance and the rest came from out-of-pocket payments made by the patients.

This practice, according to UP-NISMED, is “debilitating to the poor who barely have a budget for their daily meals much less for medical expenses.”

In order to address this, the health experts identified six (6) building blocks that will serve as the foundation for instituting reforms in the health care system: health financing, service delivery, health workforce, health information system, medical products, vaccines and technologies, and leadership and governance. (Noel Sales Barcelona/