Exodus of doctors, nurses exacerbating inequity vs women – Canson

Canson noted that having fewer doctors and nurses to attend to the needs of women is a violation of women's rights. She blamed the situation on government's low priority for health.

"Their flight has resulted in the shortage of health care human resources to the detriment of the health of women, Canson told reporters Friday at a forum timed for the 25 th anniversary of the country's ratification of CEDAW or the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women at the NCCC Mall here. 

Canson said from 2000 to 2006, the country lost more than 80,000 nurses and 5,000 doctors. She said around 6,000 doctors are presently enrolled in nursing schools. In 11 government hospitals in Southeastern Mindanao, at least 20 percent of health professionals have gone abroad and at least half have pending applications. She said doctor to patient ratio is 1:20,000 to 30,000 while nurse to patient is 1:70.

She said the low budget allocation for health care has worsened the situation. Only 0.6 percent of the total budget is allotted for health or P10.3 billion, which is smaller than the P 10.4 billion 2004 budget. She said this is way below the 5 percent of GNP prescribed by the World Health Organization for health.

She estimated that budget to amount to only 24 centavos per Filipino a day, "barely enough to buy paracetamol.”

According to Article 1 of the CEDAW, "discrimination against women" is any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field".

The CEDAW mandates the State under Article 12, Section 1, to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care, “in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.”

The CEDAW mandates the State to ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation."

But Canson said pregnant women who are supposed to get pre-natal services are constrained by expensive and inaccessible services. She said they are at the risk of dying from complications.  

"If only there are enough services to the barangay or community level," she lamented.

She noted most of the barangay health workers in the communities are old. “The younger ones prefer to become domestic helpers rather than work as health workers,” she said.

Canson, a nurse and member of Gabriela who describes herself as a "health social activist" also decried the increasing privatization of health services, claiming this has displaced more women. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)