15 September 2010
The more than 100% rise in dengue cases has unraveled what the Aquino government should and should not be doing.
According to Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), there is a need to re-emphasize preventive and primary care programs aside from curative healthcare services. There is also a need to strengthen barangay and municipal health centers aside from public hospitals to alleviate the current overload of dengue patients.
“Health problems like dengue and other infectious diseases are primarily addressed at the community level,” said Dr. Geneve Rivera, HEAD secretary-general. “Preventive programs like sanitation and hygiene, and primary care programs like home nursing care and the right recognition of serious illnesses, are needed in places where people live.”
At the community level, health centers and health workers can be sources of correct information on preventive and initial treatment measures. They can also help screen sick patients who can be managed at home so that not everyone goes directly to hospitals.
“Trained community health workers can go to barangays to inform and assist the people,” said Dr. Rivera. “However, like doctors and nurses, there are not enough of them to go around.”
HEAD is recommending a budget of P 25 billion in 2011 for preventive and public health programs, and health promotion, which includes P5 billion for infectious diseases like dengue. The current budget is only P223.8 million and is the same for 2011.
Unfortunately, the Department of Health seems to be going towards the opposite direction.
The budget for Disease Prevention and Control has not significantly changed over the last few years. Next year, except for the additional vaccines for the elderly, it is being further decreased by the Aquino administration.
Funds for the operations of Centers for Health and Development, the DOH centers in the regions and provinces, are also reduced by P 273M, from P 2.543B in 2010 to P 2.270B in 2011. Worse, even public hospitals are not spared.
For instance, while the highest number of dengue cases in Metro Manila is in Quezon City, public hospitals there will also receive the biggest budget cuts in 2011. East Avenue Medical Center, which has an overflow of dengue patients, will get a P27 million budget cut in its operational funds next year. Quirino Memorial Medical Center, which has admitted dengue patients three times its capacity, will get a P10 million reduction while the National Children’s Hospital will get a P3 million cut.
“Rather than reduce support for public healthcare and turn over its responsibility to private investors, the Aquino administration should require the support of other government agencies aside from the DOH because dengue involves social as well as medical solutions. In chronic afflictions that plague the country, those who are poorest are the most vulnerable, have worst outcomes, and have the least access to healthcare,” said Dr. Rivera.
“Health is about people, not profits.” (Bulatlat.com)
Dr. Geneve E. Rivera
Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos