Stop privatizing public healthcare
We write to express our earnest support on the passage of House Bill 2475 or “An Act Prohibiting the Privatization of Public Hospitals, Public Health Facilities, and Public Health Services” filed by Bayan Muna party list and the rest of the Makabayan bloc in Congress.
The bill is important in a country: where hospitalization in the Philippines can cost three months’ worth of a worker’s wage; where six out of 10 patients die without ever seeing a doctor; where scores of patients have to line up before the break of dawn in the out-patient department of public hospitals only to be told that the limited slot for charity has already been filled up; where preventable and curable diseases continue to top the leading causes of morbidity and mortality; where it is virtually impossible for people from far-flung areas to consult a health worker because no public health facilities are present and transportation to the “nearest” hospital or clinic is worth a week’s income; or where the sick could hardly get the treatment they need because of user and service fees; and where public healthcare becomes a commodity with a price tag for every service.
The dismal public healthcare service is further aggravated by the continuing adherence of the government to the policy of privatization and corporatization of public hospitals and health facilities. No less than Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial declared that at least 33 of the 72 public hospitals will be corporatized to gain financial autonomy. The National Center for Mental Health will be sold and transferred to Rosario, Cavite; Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital will be transferred and corporatized. Even without any legal basis, government hospitals like Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, and Corazon Locsin Montelibano Medical Center have increased fees making it unaffordable for the poor.
Thus, it is high time to pass a law that will make public healthcare more accessible and available to the people and make it illegal to make business out of health in public hospitals, public health facilities, and public health services; that will ensure a public healthcare system fueled by government fund and not indebted to any profit-making entity.
The passage of HB 2475 will bring the Filipino people closer to the healthcare system they truly deserve — free healthcare services in a unified public health system. Under such system, the government assumes full responsibility in the provision of free health services to all people, and provides essential medicines for free. From the national level down to the smallest unit, the government shall ensure adequate funds and resources are allocated using only public money. The exclusive utilization of public funds for public health facilities will guarantee that healthcare is provided for free and will never be profit-driven or used for income generation at the expense of patients.
ELEANOR A. JARA, MD, coconvenor, Coalition for People’s Right to Health, firstname.lastname@example.org
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