Even if nurses and doctors want to work in public hospitals, said Nisperos, there is no budget for additional plantilla positions for them. This results in perennially understaffed and overworked nurses and doctors in public hospitals, said Manuel.
The shortage in many emergency life-saving equipment and medicines in public hospitals, coupled with the fact that Filipinos now have to pay for a lot of things first (from laboratory fees to hospital supplies) before their illnesses can be diagnosed and treated, have been turning off many poor patients, said Manuel. The unfortunate result is either the patients go to public hospitals only when their illnesses have gotten too worse to treat, or they just die without medical care.
“No Filipino should be deprived of health services because he/she has no money. No Filipino should succumb to disease simply because there is no healthcare facility nearby. Women should not die of something so natural as pregnancy and child-delivery,” said Nisperos.
Dr. Gene Nisperos of the Health Alliance for Democracy says that the country needs a health budget of at least PhP90 billion. (Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
But based on the Aquino government’s proposed budget for health next year, the dire situation of scarce hospital facilities, supplies and personnel threaten to even get worse.
The budget for the 55 government hospitals nationwide would be slashed by P363.7million ($8.2 million), while the budget for other government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) hospitals would be trimmed of P970.6 million ($21 million), lamented the AHW. These GOCC hospitals include the Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney & Transplant Institute, the Philippine Children’s Medical Center and Philippine Heart Center.
Required PhP90-B Health Budget in 2011 Realistic
Compared to the 2010 budget, Aquino’s 2011 budget has decreased much of the funds for basic services, said Nisperos.
Aquino’s national budget “stresses more the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines through increased budget for recruitment of additional soldiers, CAFGU, intelligence and arms procurement,” the AHW said in a statement. The health group warned that this could only “worsen militarization, counter-insurgency operations and result in more human rights violations and repression of the people.”
“The 2011 budget gives priority to defense as the third highest, with an 81 percent increase, and to debt payment (which is already almost a fourth of the entire national budget),” said Manuel. She calls it “ironic” because President Aquino often claims that providing social service is the priority of his administration and that his administration’s proposed budget is a “reform budget.”
Instead of Aquino’s P32.028-billion ($724.9 million) budget for health, the two health groups dared the Aquino administration to put money where its mouth is. “A P90 billion budget makes it feasible to work for immediate remedies to the most pressing health problems, while paving the way for more long-term solutions.”
The proposed PhP90-B health budget. (Prepared by HEAD and AHW)
The current major areas of health concern in the country are the focus of the P90 billion ($2.037 billion) health budget, as opposed to the minuscule P32.028 billion ($724.9 million) initially proposed by the health department, said the HEAD. The Philippines is in dire need of a P90 billion ($2.037 billion) budget to address the “lack of healthcare services, loss of health personnel and the need to focus on preventive aside from curative care.” The government also has to confront “chronic health problems such as high maternal deaths, prevalence and recurrence of infectious diseases and high prices of drugs.”
Is this proposed budget just a dream? A study conducted by HEAD revealed that there are enough sources to fund this alternative budget. The political will on the part of the government is what is needed, said Nisperos.
Aside from reallocating existing funds, HEAD suggests looking into trimming the P80 billion ($1.8 billion) increase in debt payments. There is also an estimated P170 billion ($3.8 billion) that could be made available if the government eliminates corruption. There are billions more of unpaid corporate taxes that the government needs only to muster the political will to collect, said Nisperos.
Saying if there is a will there is a way, Nisperos explained that the P90 billion ($2.037) health budget “is meant to ensure that the right to health is guaranteed and fulfilled by the Aquino government.” Toward ensuring this right, Nisperos said, their proposed health budget “challenges the current policy of healthcare privatization and the corporatization of government hospitals.” (Bulatlat.com)