PH not ready for Ebola
We, community health nurses and people’s health advocates of Mga Nagkakaisang Nars ng Bayan, debunk the claims of health authorities that our country is “ready” to handle and manage the threat of Ebola should it breach our shores. As the foot soldiers in the health delivery system, we are still in the dark on how the government, particularly the Department of Health, intends to deal with and manage this extremely virulent and highly contagious disease. We strongly maintain that an informed citizenry and a fortified public healthcare system are crucial to deter the potentially immense damage an Ebola outbreak can possibly cause, as shown in the affected countries. Sadly, both conditions are absent at this point.
In fact, even before the emergence of Ebola, our health system has been so neglected that certain communicable diseases long eradicated or controlled in countries with strong public health systems continue to be top causes of morbidity and mortality in the Philippines. Our public hospitals are mostly ill-equipped and chronically understaffed because of a severe lack of government funding for health services. As a consequence, we have seen how our countrymen in far-flung barrios and urban poor communities suffer and die from preventable and curable diseases, deprived of basic healthcare, as there are not enough nurses regularly employed and deployed by the government to respond to the people’s health needs.
It is the state’s responsibility to safeguard the safety and wellbeing of the general population by fortifying the primary level of defense in the community, especially the most vulnerable. In addition, we maintain that nurses, along with our colleagues in the health sector, being at the forefront of our public health system, should be well-protected through adequate and proper protective gear, as well as specific training for this global health threat. Breaking the protocol and demonstrating inconsistencies in approach in “receiving” the “unsymptomatic” peacekeepers who came home from Africa show how the government bureaucracy is ill-prepared and inefficient.
If, in the past, “health” has not been a state priority, this time the stakes are just too high for the government to not seriously perform its mandate to “protect and promote the people’s health.” We have a huge pool of untapped personnel–at least 200,000 unemployed nurses who can be harnessed to build a strong health force that can face up to the formidable challenge of an Ebola scourge. The government’s claim of readiness should be concretely seen through the allocated budget for adequate, effective, protective hazmat suits and training for health workers, rational health personnel distribution, and accessible and free health services for the Filipino people.
ELEANOR M. NOLASCO, RN,
Nars ng Bayan,
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.