“The Philippines is facing multiple health emergencies. If left unaddressed and untreated, they could blow up into a full-blown public health crisis in the coming years.”
This is the warning raised on Monday by Senator Risa Hontiveros, who said that the country is looking at a ‘looming health crisis’ amid the outbreak of serious diseases and complications even as government seeks to cut spending on health services and basic medicines remain costly.
“Epidemics left and right”
Citing data from the Department of Health (DOH), Hontiveros pointed out that the country is now suffering its worst dengue epidemic since 2012, with 271, 480 recorded cases from January to August 2019 alone. The dengue outbreak has since killed 1,107 people – half of whom were children aged 5-9 years old. Likewise, Metro Manila and other regions in Visayas and Mindanao are experiencing a measles outbreak, with a 550 percent increase in the number of measles patients in NCR from January to February 2019 compared to last year.
Hontiveros also highlighted an increase in cases of diphtheria (167 cases in 2019) and the reemergence of polio after 19 years. She noted that children were affected the most by diphtheria, with the median age of diphtheria deaths pegged at 4 years old.
“Highest teenage pregnancy and HIV-AIDS rate”
Apart from serious diseases, Hontiveros said that the country has registered the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2017 alone, 530 teenage girls as young as 10 years old gave birth every day. No less than Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia called the teenage pregnancy problem a “national social emergency.”
“Prescription of health reforms”
Hontiveros said that what is needed is a “comprehensive prescription” of sound health policies, swift and adequate mobilization of funds, resources and manpower to capably address the multiple health emergencies.
“Kung may multiple health emergencies, kailangan din ng multiple na tugon. Kailangan ng komprehensibong reseta at gamutan,” Hontiveros said.
The senator said that she is pushing for six (6) proposals to respond to the numerous health issues.
1. Full restoration of the DOH’s 2020 budget and retention of thousands of government health personnel with better compensation and benefits
2. Revive the DOH’s Oplan Alis Disease to strengthen vaccination efforts and study the possibility of incentivizing its vaccination programs to motivate more Filipinos to get their recommended vaccines.
3. Broaden the list of medicines covered by the maximum drug retail prices (MDRP) for drugs, pursuant to the Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008 (Republic Act 9502), covering 120 drugs addressing leading diseases and catastrophic conditions in the Philippines.
4. Immediate passage of the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Bill and the Strengthened Anti-hospital Detention Law
5. Full funding and implementation of health policies such as the Universal Health Care Law, HIV-AIDS Policy Act, Mental Health Law and the Reproductive Health Law
6. Back to basics health approach by strengthening the primary care and preventive sides of the country’s health services.