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Young Blood

Juan deserves better health care

Every time I pass by the patients in the wards, my heart sinks to depths of sadness. Young and old on tattered sleeping mats, worn-out hospital beds, monobloc chairs in the hallway: This is what daily life in a public hospital is like.

The heat scorches its way through the halls where patients and their watchers wait, looking gaunt and tired. One watcher waves one hand to fan the patient and herself, while the other hand holds her sick loved one’s IV bag.

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Every patient and watcher has this  weathered, beaten-down face, testifying to their hard-up lives, and the lack of assistance, compassion and proper medical care accorded them.

This is the norm in a public hospital, where most patients fall below the poverty line and can barely feed and attend to themselves regularly.

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Upon starting medical school almost a year ago, I entered the local public hospital where I would be spending most of my time for the next five years or so.

On my weekly visits, I can’t help but imagine that all, if not the greater percentage of the country’s public health care institutions, are inferior in quality, terribly overcrowded and has derelict facilities. This deficiency is rooted in bias and disproportion.

Health inequities remain a big problem in our society. More private hospitals are being built, but, although quality service is assured, the expense they entail only assures that they cater to the affluent.

This forces the middle class to struggle financially and resort to cheaper health care services provided by public hospitals and units, which are already staggering under the weight of demand from the poor and impoverished sectors.

Some of the working class opt for private health care service, but this can put them at risk of major financial instability due to ballooning expenses.

Last January, during our biannual community immersion in Zamboanga del Norte, we saw how rural communities suffer from the unavailability and inaccessibility of health care services. In one barangay, many people whose livelihoods were dependent on agriculture, fishing and small-scale businesses said they had to travel for an hour or two just to reach the provincial hospital.

Several had to settle for home care, which involved resting in their homes and waiting to get well without getting proper medical assessment and treatment. This saved them money that could buy them food instead.

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These circumstances frame the bigger picture of the neglect caused by the unequal distribution of power, income, goods and services in our society — a paramount issue the government needs to address.

The current health care system reflects the government’s insensitivity to the health of its people; a poor prioritization framework that underpins health as an insignificant factor in socioeconomic development and in the overall well-being of citizens.

Health and politics are intertwined. Health addresses the well-being of the country’s people, while politics should be a tool to ensure that public access to health services is fair and rightfully distributed through proper policies, implementation and prioritization.

The Filipino populace, regardless of social class, deserves much better public health care. But the poor and marginalized deserve such services more, as their lives are stuck in a quicksand of difficulties.

That is why voting for the right leaders counts, because no hand gestures, propaganda hashtags and trendy catchphrases will improve our health care system unless they are accompanied by action.

Our vote is like a prescription, a remedy for the pains this country suffers from. A bad prescription will aggravate the disease; a good one will diminish it.

I look forward to the day when we don’t have to see Juan dela Cruz traveling hundreds of miles just to see a health care provider, forced to camp out in blistering hospital hallways instead of resting in the relative comfort of his own private space, and tolerating substandard health care services, just because he is penniless and disadvantaged.

Juan deserves better. We deserve better.

John Dexter Canda, 21, is a first-year student at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University School of Medicine.

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TAGS: Health Care, John Dexter Canda, public hospital, Young Blood
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