Hontiveros: Include 'hilot' in community health teams
MANILA, Philippines – Former PhilHealth director Risa Hontiveros calls it a “double tragedy” when the Philippines missed its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on maternal health.
“Dobleng nakakalungkot dahil globally naibaba, pero dito sa Pilipinas lalong tumataas,” Hontiveros said of maternal mortality in the country. (It was doubly saddening because the rate decreased globally, but in the Philippines it's increasing.)
She blamed the delayed implementation of the reproductive health (RH) law, which was only declared constitutional by the Supreme Court in 2014, two years after the law was passed.
During Rappler's 2nd senatorial debate on Friday, April 15, Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian asked Hontiveros if it’s time to arrest or ban traditional birth attendants or hilot. He said births with complications remain a grave problem in the country.
Hontiveros said instead of banning or arresting these birth attendants, it’s more important to engage them to join community health teams. Integrating them to these teams will also help in promoting giving births in health facilities.
“Essential [na] sa health care facilities makapanganak para magkaroon man ng komplikasyon, kaagad maaagapan,” she added. Birthing rooms will be a feature of her proposed super barangay health centers, which she said will also have enough manpower.
Former Senator Richard Gordon asked Hontiveros if she thinks the Aquino government has failed when it comes to maternal health, but he quickly backtracked, since Hontiveros is part of the Senate slate of the Liberal Party.
“What can the next administration do para magawa at matapos, umabot tayo sa MDGs?” he asked instead.
Hontiveros said it’s important to continue the concrete steps that have been achieved by this administration. These include efforts toward universal enrollment into PhilHealth, and deployment of more doctors, nurses, and barangay health workers to areas that are underserved.
Implementing the sin tax law will also be crucial, she said, since revenues will help fund the government’s different health programs and equip the country’s hospitals.
On RH, Hontiveros admitted the country still faces a lot of challenges, including the SC’s temporary restraining order on the distribution and sale of implants, and local ordinances that violate the law.
These were on top of the P1-billion RH budget cut supposedly meant for the purchase of family planning commodities for the poorest of the poor in the country. RH advocates like Hontiveros vowed to make the budget cut an election issue.
A recent Pulse Asia survey revealed that most Filipinos want candidates in an election to include family planning in their program of action.
In March, the Purple Ribbon for RH Movement – the largest network of RH and women's rights advocates, which includes the PLCPD – endorsed Liberal Party vice presidential bet Leni Robredo, as well as senatorial bets Hontiveros, Leila de Lima, and Walden Bello.
De Lima and Bello also attended Friday's debate held at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines. – Rappler.com
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