PRIVILEGE SPEECH: Investing in the Aquino healthcare agenda aggravates crisis in women and children’s healthcare

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Rep. Luz C. Ilagan/Gabriela Women’s Party

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/05 Nov) — I rise today on a question of personal and collective privilege to call our attention on a worsening crisis in our people’s healthcare.

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, hundreds of Filipino women and children, the most vulnerable sectors in our society are dying every day.

Some 80,000 infants and children below two years old are dying annually of easily preventable and curable diseases. This means that 200 children die of illnesses like tuberculosis and bronchitis, dengue, pneumonia, cholera and even diarrhea. Maternal mortality rate has increased to 221 for every 100,000 live births in 2010 from 162 in 2006.

These are deaths that could have easily been avoided; these are lives that could have easily been saved if Filipino families had access to free, appropriate, preventive and primary healthcare.

Maiiwasan sana ang madilim na kalagayang ito kung mayroon tayong libre, angkop, batayan at kagyat na serbisyong kalusugan para sa mga bata at kababaihan.

Pero saan nga ba sila pupunta para makakuha ng serbisyong kalusugan?

More than 60% of the 1,800 hospitals in the Philippines are privately owned. Government owned hospitals on the other hand lack in facilities, medicines and personnel.

More than 50% of the 42,000  barangays in our country do not have a health center.

A report by the Philippine Health Insurance system in 2009 reveals that Cagayan Valley, a region that has a population of over 3M, has a total of 25 Rural Health Units, 6 TB Dots Centers, 3 maternity clinics and no dialysis center. ARMM, a region with a population of more than 4M, has a total of 7 Rural Health Units, 2 TB Dots clinics, no dialysis centers and no maternity clinics.

This is a situation that the Aquino Health Agenda and the 2013 National Budget fail to address. In fact this is a crisis situation that will take a turn for the worse if no radical change in the Aquino government’s general direction of healthcare privatization takes place.

The P56.8 B allocated to the Department of Health in the 2013 national budget does very little to address the health crisis. What appears to be a nominal increase in the health budget is in fact an allocation that steers the national healthcare program towards the control and domination of private business entities and multinationals. It is in fact an allocation that paves the way for the government’s total abdication of its responsibility to provide for the Filipino’s right to health services.

Budgetary increases for the 12 specialty hospitals cover only the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses and will not provide medicines and medical supplies to patients from poor families.

The Aquino Health Agenda which the 2013 budget supports, leaves government hospitals to fend for themselves. Funds for equipment upgrade and repair through private entities and corporatization schemes inevitably sends the cost of services soaring, making it inaccessible to poor Filipino families.

The increase in allocation of personnel services will not cover the hiring of additional personnel. It covers only the last installment of salary increases for mandated by the implementation of the Salary Standardization Act.

No allotment for subsidy to indigent patients for confinement or use of specialized equipment which amounted to P16M in 2011 can be found in the health budget. Instead, 12.6B or roughly 22% of the 2013 health budget is being allocated to the National Health Insurance Program or Philhealth for some 5.2M beneficiaries identified by the National Household Targeting System.

The 2013 budget tells us to refrain from funding government hospitals and pour a big chunk our resources into a national health insurance program for indigents that will, according to the Philhealth sales pitch, allow the poorest household to enter any hospital, public or private, get medical attention and leave without paying a single peso. That cannot be true.

The no balance billing can be availed only by those in the NHTS. A system that has been criticized as flawed in the course of the implementation of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program.  This NHTS excluded more than half of the estimated 11M poor households identified by the latest SWS poll on self rated poverty.

Hindi lahat ng mahihirap ay nakabilang sa NHTS. Hindi lahat ng nakabilang sa NHTS ay mahihirap. Hindi maitatatwang maraming nakabilang sa NHTS ay tinaguriang mga political poor, mga benepisyaryo ng mga pulitiko.

The no balance billing can be availed of only in government hospitals or 40% of the total number of hospitals in the Philippines most of which are few and far between and worse, ill-equipped.

Bakit natin binubuhusan ng pera ang Philhealth pero pinagkakaitan naman natin ang gulugod ng serbisyong kalusugan sa ating bansa? Ito ba ang pagugol ng matuwid?

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues. We have already approved next year’s budget. Yet it appears, by all indications that we are blindly kowtowing to the Aquino Health Agenda without necessarily taking into consideration its lethal impact on our nation’s healthcare.

The 2013 national budget claims to empower the poorest sectors of society yet is in fact one that excludes, nay, extinguishes their chances of getting access to healthcare. The 2013 national budget that the House of Representatives has approved will in fact spell an even bigger healthcare disaster.

Allow this representation to remind this august chamber that healthcare is a right and that it is the State’s responsibility, our responsibility to ensure that every Filipino enjoys this basic human right and has access to free, appropriate, primary healthcare. Let us make sure that we are not passing legislation that subsequently denies our constituents of this basic human right.  (Rep. Luz C. Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party is from Davao City).

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