Groups slam health reform failure under Duterte administration
MANILA, Philippines – Rainy skies did not stop advocates and organizations from marching for progressive healthcare.
The streets were filled with chants as the Coalition for People’s Right to Health (CPRH) and different organizations and interest groups held a caravan that pushed for free and progressive healthcare on Wednesday, July 19.
The caravan, which started from the Quezon Memorial Circle and ended at the Mendiola Peace Arch, featured programs aimed at pushing for reforms in the current healthcare system in the country. Health groups also called on President Rodrigo Duterte to focus on addressing the “roots of poverty and ill-health.”
Dr Eleanor Jara, co-convener for the CPRH, said that the President must hear the calls of his people and take into account the suggestions on how to address the issues in the current healthcare system as his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) neared.
“The government must change the direction it is taking, and move toward adequate and free social services,” she said. (READ: DOH in 2017: Focus on universal health coverage, lowering drug prices)
CPRH noted that 7 out of 10 Filipinos die without so much as seeing a medical practitioner. They pointed out that problems in the health system all boils down to root issues like poverty, contractualization, privatization of companies, and low salaries of health workers.
Medical students, health workers and nurses also lamended the high cost of education, continuous cases of contractualization, low wages, and ill-equipped hospitals.
For Jara, the current state of the Department of Health is a “mere continuation of the Aquino administration’s pro-corporate and pro-privatization policies.” She said Duterte had failed in stopping these “privatization schemes” due to his neo-liberal policies.
“Bagama’t siya ay nangangako ng libreng serbisyong pangkalusugan, tinutuloy-tuloy n’ya ang pagtupad sa mga neo-liberal policies to the Department of Health,” she added.
(Even though he promised free health care services, he continued to pass neoliberal policies to the Department of Health)
Jara said "neoliberal policies" made business out of health care for the poor. (READ: DOH: Fabella hospital will not be demolished)
She said these policies include the planned privatization of public hospitals such as the Philippine Orthopedic Center. Jara said protests against the scheme stopped the plan.
Calls to end impunity
Human rights groups also voiced their concerns on the current state of the people’s health under the first year of the Duterte Administration. They marched to protest against the human rights violations directed towards members of the health sector.
Julie Caguiat, a convenor for the Protection and Justice for Doctors and Health workers (PRO JUST), said the DOH has reported 4 deaths of doctors, 3 of whom were public workers.
“Nakikita namin, ‘yung culture of impunity, na ang dali na lang pumatay. And to put, 'yung doctors pa, na alam naman natin na iilan nalang ‘yung doctors na willing to serve sa far-flung areas or marginalized areas, ito pa ang nangyayari,” she added.
(We can see the culture of impunity, that it’s easier to kill. And this includes doctors. We know there are few who are willing to serve in far-flung or marginalized areas, and this happens.)
Organizations also protested the extension of martial law in Mindanao and the extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s war on drugs. CPRH said all this promote injustice and foster a culture of impunity.
“The key to a free, comprehensive, and progressive or people centered health care system thus lie on the people’s concerted efforts to push for meaningful changes towards a just and healthy society,” Jara said. – Rappler.com
Arianne Jeanel Calumbiran is a Rappler intern