PUBLIC HEALTH: Not For Sale

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During the first and second semester of this school year, I was frequently assigned at Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center (ITRMC). In the said public hospital, I have seen varied situations of patients and their family members.
And because of this, the recently proposed privatization of government hospitals is definitely a NO for me. I am maybe just a student-nurse who has been deployed to the area for practice but that doesn’t make me understand less of things.
Privatization happens when a government industry or property is transferred to the autonomy and enterprise of a private sector. The House Bill 6069 which was filed by Bacolod District Representative Anthony Golez Jr. to the Lower House March of last year seeks to privatize 26 of the country’s government hospitals.
A similar bill was filed by Sen. Franklin Drilon to the Upper House. The ITRMC is one of the 26 listed public health institutions that are proposed to be corporatized.
If the Congress approves the proposal, it would be the start of President Benigno Aquino III’s planned privatization of all government hospitals in the Philippines which is part of his Public-Private Partnership.
In implementing the plan, the government mentions of accessible and affordable healthcare for the poor. The public-private partnership, according to them, will provide quality service and better facilities without fee increase. Fiscal autonomy of government hospitals, generating of income and employee bonuses are some reasons why Representative Golez pushed the bill.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in an interview that the government does not intend to privatize government hospitals but only wants to professionalize their services.
In 2008, Celso Panisa died because he was not admitted at National Kidney Transplant Institute. A down payment of P10, 000 was necessary for his admission but the family only had P2, 000. Blood tests in this institution cost P600 compared to P400 of Capitol Medical Center.
Hemodialysis is also more expensive at NKTI as to other private centers. It was year 2011 when 1,600 patients at Philippine Heart Center could not undergo surgical operation because they cannot afford it.
At the Emergency Room of the Lung Center of the Philippines, fees are collected with the use of medical equipment and other paraphernalia.
Also, consultations at its Out Patient Department are not free. There are no extra charity beds and it is difficult to access charity services at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center. An initial deposit of P5,000 is also needed before admission.
If such cases happened in the early corporatized government hospitals, what can be the worse repercussions of planning to privatize the other 26?
If our government wants better health service for the people, then it should heed to the World Health Organization’s recommended budget allocation for a country’s health sector. It should be at least 5% of a state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In 2013, the budget proposal for the Department of Health is P56.8 billion which is equivalent to just 1.89% of the GDP. The government can also intensify its tax collection to increase its income.
The truth is, this whole privatization thing can be compared to a business scam. The services of a privatized hospital blatantly require increase in fees that will result to less service to indigent patients. The government will just abandon its liabilities to the public hospitals.
If the hospitals get privatized, the government won’t need to allot funds for them and will consequently lessen their expenses on social services. It may be true that they are after the enhancement of the health facilities but these are not within the means of the common citizens.
Government owned and controlled corporations will further weaken the public healthcare system. I am against its profit over service intention. It is negligence to the state of responsibility. Again, I maybe just a student-nurse who has been deployed to the area for practice but that doesn’t make me understand less of things.

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