On Looking at the Real Health Situation and the RH Bill

By Lee-an Rosal

Mr. B was a patient in a government hospital who was diagnosed to have an infection in the kidney. His family was able to check him in as a pay patient when he was first confined. As the bills added one on top of the other, and he found it hard to pay for all of it, his face started to get puffy and his hands and feet enlarge due to the leak of water through his tissues (in Filipino, we call this manas).

After being given medications and two procedures that took out the water that seeped into the linings of his lungs, he went home with savings scrapped from his family’s pockets. The worse is over, the family thought. After a few weeks, Mr. B was brought back to the hospital, his kidneys nearly failing. He wasn’t able to sustain the many medicines prescribed to him. So his illness didn’t get any better. He, likewise, didn’t have money to pay the projected hospital procedures so he lined up for social service, which was eventually granted to him.

He was discharged yet again, his condition improving. This time though, he has to go on for regular dialysis. The family struggled to cover for the sessions, missing some. Then came one afternoon that shocked the family. A difficulty of breathing episode, accompanied by jabs of pain in the chest prompted them to rush him to the emergency room that fateful day. As the daughter went to the triage with her father, she pleaded that he be attended to as she suspected that it was a heart attack in progress.

According to her narration, she said that she declared that her father was under social service; they can’t pay for whatever the hospital could charge upon admission. She said her father was still conscious and was still able to walk to the stretcher in the social service area for patients. Since there were a lot of patients filling up the area and only a few nurses on duty…think of the worse that could happen.

This is the situation in the emergency rooms of government hospitals in the country. There are more horror stories to tell of people not being attended to. But don’t get me wrong, this is not to point a finger at government hospitals. It’s just that…there are not enough nurses due to cost-cutting. There are no sufficient funds for basic healthcare. People are not readily attended to. You are lucky if you can pay for good health services. But the poor? The marginalized sectors of society?

I remember the story that introduced me to Community Health Nursing back in college. Set in a far-flung barrio, it told of a man who needed immediate care. The nearest health center was consulted but it lacked the necessary equipment for survival. Empty oxygen tanks, no ambulance in sight, no emergency drugs to sustain his life. The next hospital was in the city kilometers away from the barrio and the family had no choice but to “rent” a carabao to bring the man to that hospital.

Ending of the story?

He died along the way.

Basic healthcare services. This is what we need to address instead of rallying the Reproductive Health Bill.

What does the latest survey of the Department of Health say?

Maternal-related complications only rank 9th in the top 10 causes of morbidity and mortality in the country. This was done in a 5-year compilation of data. What goes first? Heart-related diseases. What goes sixth? Tuberculosis.

To think that Tubercolosis CAN BE TREATED with regular medications. The indication that this ranks as the 6th just shows that the poor still do not have access to health services that they can afford as Tubercolosis is said to be the “poor man’s disease” or the “third world disease.”

And we put to pedestal the RH Bill as the one we shall pour billions of pesos to? Is there something wrong with the picture?

To spend billions for contraception and disregarding the simple illnesses that lead to deaths in the many government hospitals in the country is injustice to the Filipino people. Not that I am saying maternal health is not a priority…but if we can’t give a solution to many nurses needing jobs, to attending to a poor man’s plea to cure his cough that have led to Pneumonia or Tuberculosis then death because it wasn’t attended to right away…if we can’t address the top 8 written in that health survey by the Department of Health, why spend so much more for the RH Bill?

The story of that poor man and Mr. B reflects on how we define life and death nowadays.

How life is defined not anymore as how it was originally explained. How the beginnings of a life can now be chosen, just as how an ending of a life can not be given proper attention to…chosen as well by those who turn a blind eye to it.

The RH Bill is not the solution.

There are bigger issues on health in the country.

Even bigger issues in other sectors.

May we see the bigger picture. That there are diseases that take millions of lives away but can be given solution to…if only proper funding was granted.

May we focus not on number 9. May we look into 1 to 8 and answer to that need.

First things first.