Estrada’s deadly gamble

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10:17 PM July 29th, 2013

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July 29th, 2013 10:17 PM

We, Alliance of Health Workers members in different hospitals, oppose the plan of Mayor Joseph Estrada to close some city hospitals in Manila, “to lower government expenses and save money.”

This move by the city government of Manila is cruel and heartless. This will negatively affect many poor patients in Manila, who rely on these hospitals for services. Manila’s six city hospitals—namely, Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center, Ospital ng Maynila, Ospital ng Sampaloc, Ospital ng Tondo, Sta. Ana Hospital and Justice Abad Santos Mother and Child Hospital—serve those who cannot afford expensive private health services. Ospital ng Maynila, for instance, serves more than a thousand outpatients per day and accommodates more than 300 inpatients during peak seasons even if its bed capacity is only 300.

If any of these city hospitals will be closed down, city residents who usually lack or even have no means to provide for their basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter, would further delay or even stop seeking treatment. This may spell the difference between life and death for most patients.

Closing any of the city hospitals would aggravate the already dismal situation of state-owned hospitals in Manila, such as the Philippine General Hospital, Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center, Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital and San Lazaro Hospital.

If Manila, a first-class city and the seat of national government, cannot afford to maintain and provide affordable and accessible health care services for its residents, how much more the second- to sixth-class cities, municipalities and provinces?

This dismal lack of funding for and staffing of public hospitals, as well as the lack of hospital infrastructure and facilities, is the result of continuing neglect and misprioritization by the national government. Instead of addressing the grave lack of funds, the national government is devolving and privatizing health services to the detriment of the public.

Public hospitals are built primarily to serve the public. The government, national and local, is duty-bound to ensure that free, affordable and accessible public health services are provided the people. Public hospitals should be improved and developed by the government to better serve the people.

Adequate funding, not closure, will make our public hospitals more relevant and responsive to the needs of the people. Unless the national or the local government has the political will to really provide the people with adequate, free, affordable and accessible health services, health for all will remain as it was and as it is now: an elusive dream.

—JOSSEL I. EBESATE, RN, president, Alliance of Health Workers, ahwphil@yahoo.com

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