DOH using Ebola fears for brownie points
The Community Medicine Practitioners and Advocates Association, a group of doctors involved in the healthcare of rural and urban poor communities, calls on the Department of Health (DOH) to undertake more useful and practical actions for “Ebola preparation” rather than token measures and misleading propaganda, like the escorting to Caballo Island of the peacekeepers from Liberia and the visit of Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin to the same island.
Ironically, the DOH is blaming health workers, media and other people for ranting on and hyping the risks of Ebola, thus creating hysteria; but the fact is, it is the DOH sowing confusion for saying one thing and doing another as to the quarantining of the peacekeepers.
It has been amiss in disseminating basic information on this disease so that people can be more aware and become part of the health preparation. Also, health personnel in selected medical institutions, who are being given training on how to deal with an epidemic, feel they are being shortchanged and are not consulted.
The DOH should bear in mind that the success of any campaign to prevent the spread of Ebola or any emerging infectious disease in our country depends on empowered communities and health workers—they should be consulted and informed about such matters.
The group is appalled at the DOH’s apparent use of the issue to gain political mileage. The DOH would have sent a team of healthcare workers as volunteers to West Africa and given a $1-million contribution to the United Nations’ budget for Ebola control if not for the strong public opinion against such moves. Just recently, Malacañang again recently announced that it may send a medical team because of the breakdown of the healthcare systems in the Ebola-stricken countries.
This is ironic considering that our own national budget for health is grossly inadequate for our own health needs. In spite of more than four years of the Kalusugan Pangkalahatan program, the share (both of the DOH and local government) in our country’s total health expenditure has decreased further from 20.2 percent in 2011 to 18.5 percent in 2012, rendering the out-of-pocket spending of 57.6 percent in 2012 (latest National Health Accounts data) unacceptable.
Government has not upheld the constitutional right to quality health services nor launched a comprehensive health human resource master plan, much less provided even the minimum requirement of a health professional in every barangay. The $1-million donation insults our very own health workers who cannot even be given the salary grade and the hazard pay mandated by law.
The DOH should not only speed up putting in place the necessary measures needed to effectively prevent the entry of Ebola into the country; it should prepare not only the hospital system but the local health units as well.
The healthcare system must be adequately and effectively funded. Brownie points, or misleading propaganda which only creates panic, are not needed. The DOH must put its act together!
—JOSEPH A. CARABEO, MD,
president, Community Medicine Practitioners and Advocates Association