More healthcare issues to focus on

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THE Dengvaxia controversy added another distraction to health officials making them more oblivious of other healthcare issues that needed to be addressed promptly.

When Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers reiterated the importance of House Bill 2881 or the Junior Citizens Bill before the House Committee on Welfare of Children on Monday, it meant that there are thousands of children age 12 and below who need medical insurance and services as much as adult PhilHealth members do; who needed the same 20 percent discount that senior citizens are getting to be able to buy medicines.

This Junior Citizens Bill is not only visionary and life-saving because if you just look at naked and filthy street children, you’ll understand that these young souls are exposed to germs and elements and it’s just a matter of time they will catch a disease. So HB 2881 makes sense by making all junior citizens, regardless of income status, automatic PhilHealth members until they reach the age of 12.

Now imagine if Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who is also PhilHealth chairman, would just do some paperworks and issue instructions, he would make the job of Barbers easy and, more importantly, pre-emptively save many young lives.

Isabela Governor Faustino Dy III said the provincial government will provide free executive medical checkups for all capitol officials and employees to ensure that all who are serving their constituents are fit and healthy. It’s a laudable initiative even if it’s late, but at the same time it stresses the fact that such free medical checkups should be provided to state workers. Why, because most of them cannot afford to pay for an executive medical checkup. Again, PhilHealth can provide such benefits.

Legislators from Eastern Visayas appealed to the government to waive health insurance fees for up to 650,000 people in the region because a series of calamities wiped out their incomes and sources of livelihood. Moneyless, they have become vulnerable to health problems that need prompt medical care. This is not only a reasonable request but a humanitarian one. PhilHealth can waive the fees until these people have fully recovered and restored their financial capacity.

Senator Sonny Angara has proposed Senate Bill 1569 that creates a dental unit in each of the rural health units listed under the Department of Health, as part of the country’s overall primary healthcare strategy. This bill means that DOH has neglected the dental health of the people.

If I may add, having such dental unit is not enough. Barangay health centers are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, are closed after 5 p.m., doesn’t always have a doctor on duty on weekdays, and doesn’t always have stocks of important medicines. This is a great disservice to the public and a sign of incompetence of DOH officials because they haven’t addressed this problem for the longest time.

Angara also called on PhilHealth to expand its primary care package to include check-ups and laboratory tests and has filed Senate Bill 1673 that requires all Filipinos to be automatically covered by health insurance. That is the essence of universal access to healthcare, which is the mandate of PhilHealth. PhilHealth is useless if it is only applicable to hospitalization. Not all who feel sick have to be hospitalized, they should first be medically examined for proper diagnosis. Hello.

Currently, PhilHealth offers a primary care benefit package called Tamang Serbisyo sa Kalusugan ng Pamilya or “Tsekap” but only to indigents, sponsored members and overseas Filipino workers and their qualified dependents in identified government and private healthcare facilities. Under the package, qualified beneficiaries can avail of the following services and diagnostic examination: medical consultations, regular blood pressure and body measurement, breast examination, complete blood count, urinalysis, fecalysis, risk profiling for heart diseases and diabetes, chest x-ray, eye, ear and dental examination, among others.

The beneficiaries can also get free medicines from accredited drug outlets for the following medical conditions: asthma, acute gastroenteritis, upper respiratory tract infection, and urinary tract infection.

It’s commendable to make such primary care package available to the poor but PhilHealth must not prolong this discrimination and make it available to all.

To the DOH and Duque, you know what to do. Universal healthcare means not only giving everyone health insurance coverage. It also means making healthcare service available when it is needed. Now anyone getting sick don’t get sick only during business hours and weekdays. So make all barangay health centers open and serving 24/7 and make sure that these have a doctor on duty and free medicines for children suffering from asthma, diarrhea, otitis media, pneumonia, flu, etc. p: wjg