Half of Mindanao's hospitals now phasing out mercury

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/07 November) — The use of mercury in Mindanao’s health sector has waned although it still failed to beat the passing mark, an international coalition working for a better health care sector globally, said.

In a forum here participated by medical authorities, Faye V. Ferrer, Health Care Without Harm – Southeast Asia program officer for mercury, said Mindanao’s rating in terms of mercury phase-out is “close to passing mark.”

“We are happy with this result,” said Ferrer, noting the turnout in Mindanao as exemplary considering its geographical distance to the Department of Health central office.

In its report documenting the mercury phase-out compliance of health care facilities and institutions in the country, Health Care said that out of the 497 hospitals in the Southern Philippines, only 269 responded to the survey and of this respondents, 230 or 46% are already phasing out mercury.

This puts Mindanao ahead of Luzon with 444 (41%) hospital-respondents who are phasing out mercury out of the total 1,086, and 53 (20%) in Visayas out of the 268 hospitals, the report added.

At the rate health institutions in the country are faring in the campaign to eliminate the use of mercury, Ferrer urged the Health department not to be complacent with the result, stressing that the other 50% of the target still needs to be followed up in the effort to phase out mercury.

DoH Administrative Order 2008-0021 directed the gradual phase-out of mercury-containing devices in all health care facilities and institutions by September 2010.

Health Care advocates for total mercury phase out in health care facilities and institutions. It conducted regional forum in 10 of the 15 regions in the country to disseminate the information to various health facilities.

The team went to different regions to conduct survey which run from January to July and “out of the 1,851 hospitals in the country, 717 hospitals and 107 rural health units responded.”

The non-government organization reported that of those surveyed, there are still nine in Luzon, four in Visayas and none in Mindanao that are distributing mercury thermometers.

Ferrer also encouraged non-compliant hospitals to shun away from mercury and to choose the safe alternatives.

She warned that the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., as mandated by its revised guidelines, would no longer accredit medical institutions that are not certified as mercury-free.

Ferrer said the survey also considered the storage aspect of phased-out mercury-laden devices such as thermometers and blood pressure measuring equipment.

Mindanao has the highest number of in storage mercury thermometers, blood pressure and fluorescent lights/bulbs, the survey showed.

Guidelines to interim storage of phased-out mercury devices in health care require that these be stored “in a safe place within the hospital premises.” (MindaNews)