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Midwives send SOS to PhilHealth

12:01 AM May 13, 2014

We are members of the United Private Lying-In Practitioners and Proprietresses (UPLIPP) of Cavite province. In September 2012,  in line with President Aquino’s Kalusugang Pangkalahatan program, PhilHealth implemented the “No Balance Billing Policy,” under which we launched the “Libreng Paanak.” Under this program we extend to the families of PhilHealth members standard quality maternal and child care—from pre- to postnatal services, the expenses for which to be reimbursed by PhilHealth. For almost a year, there was no problem with the reimbursements. But since the last quarter of 2013, the payments have been coming late. As we write, our unpaid claims go back to August 2013, such that some of us had to turn down patients (50-80 percent of whom are PhilHealth cardholders who prefer our birthing clinics to the crowded public hospitals, where three to five patients have to share a bed in maternity wards) for lack of supplies. Our clientele are mostly families of fisherfolk, farmers, vendors, ambulant peddlers, drivers and factory workers.

Before 2008, many of us provided home-birth assistance, a common and acceptable practice in our culture. But this is now prohibited by law; for which reason many of us set up affordable and accessible birthing clinics.

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Despite the financial difficulties, we spend for staff trainings (e.g., basic emergency maternal and neonatal care trainings for our staff), install new equipment, and secure the necessary permits and licenses from the health and environment departments, as well as from local governments, and these have cost us hundreds of thousands of pesos. All these on top of our daily and monthly overhead expenses, including salaries for our staff.

According to PhilHealth-Region 4-A, the reimbursement delays have been caused by our failure to fill out the new forms correctly and by “technical glitches.” Having remedied the “deficiencies,” we resubmitted our claims for reimbursements last March 2014, but until now have not received any.

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If this situation continues, we might just be forced to close our facilities.

What will happen to the patients who cannot afford the costs of private hospitalization? The province’s records show an alarming increase in maternal childbirth-related deaths from 2010 to the present. According to an Inquirer news article (“Fertility rate down but more mothers dying,” Front Page, 5/2/14) “more and more women, particularly those who are poor, are being denied access to proper healthcare during their pregnancy because of the state’s stretched medical resources.”

We in UPLIPP have committed ourselves to do our share in the government’s thrust to provide affordable but quality birthing clinics. Believing that service is part of our mission as health workers, we have willingly partnered with government through the “Libreng Paanak.” Ironically, this healthcare program is forcing us to pack our bags.

The 221 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births are a national shame. We can help reduce this, but we need government  (PhilHealth) support. PhilHealth must deliver its end of the deal.

—MARITES BACUNATA,

ALONA NAVARRO,

DOLORES PUOD, DOLORES FERMANO, JENNIFER MEDILLO AND 116 OTHERS,

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United Private Lying-In Practitioners and Proprietresses,

[email protected]

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