The State of People’s Health: One Year under President Duterte

Jul 31, 2017

Coalition for People's Right to Health rally for free and progressive healthcare for Philippines_Rappler.comOur Filipino partner Community Medicine Development Foundation (COMMED) is a member of the Coalition for People’s Right to Health who have recently published an update about the troubling state of health after one year of president Duterte’s administration. Union Aid Aboard – APHEDA partnered with COMMED to respond to the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 through providing crucial medical and psychological services to affected communities.  

One Year under President  Duterte’s Administration

The Duterte administration continues to pursue neoliberal policies. Its flagship health plan Philippine Health Agenda or ACHIEVE is a sham. It has failed to address the health needs of the people.  No substantial changes have been made in the DOH’s policies and programs that will genuinely solve the root causes of ill health.

Through the Philippine Health Agenda, the Duterte administration continue to implement policies and programs like privatization/corporatization of public hospitals, budget cut on direct health services, and fee for service. With this, the Duterte government, like the previous administrations, abandons its responsibility of providing health services to the people and  surrender its obligation  to private businesses, whose interest is to gain  profit.

Various health groups proposed the People’s Health Agenda to the Duterte administration to make health services accessible to the Filipino people, but the government however was lukewarm in its response and  largely ignored the proposal.   The government’s inability to provide adequately for the health of its people can be cited in the following:  

  1. Primary health care services are still inadequate, selective, and unaffordable.
  2. The Durterte administration pursues the policy of privatization and corporatization of public hospitals and health facilities.
  3. As result of budget cuts, the public health care system continues to deteriorate. Existing government health facilities especially in rural areas are dilapidated, neglected, and lack personnel, medicines, and equipment.
  4. Health budget allocated for the year 2017 is not commensurate to the needs of Filipinos and still far from the 5% of the Gross Domestic Product standard.    
  5. The number of government health personnel especially those in the rural areas is grossly inadequate.
  6. Health professionals and health workers have been deprived of decent wages and benefits.
  7. People still lack access to safe and essential medicines with the meager budget allocation for medicines.
  8. Allocated minimal funds for public health services while a huge fund was earmarked to PhilHealth or insurance.
  9. The practice of contractualization in government hospitals continues and even worsens.  
  10. Many hospitals still require patients to pay deposits.
  11. Provision of free immunization to all infants and children and nutrition program to malnourished children are not sufficient.

In summary, the Philippine Health Agenda of the Duterte administration promotes the increasing role of the private sector, privatisation/corporatisation, and insurance such as Philhealth to finance public health facilities with the end goal of less or no subsidy from the government.

The government has the primary responsibility in ensuring the people’s right to health.  It should provide adequate fund allotment and implement measures to improve public health care delivery and people’s health.  Taxes should be returned to the people in the form of adequate and free social services.

The government should allot at least 5% of its Gross Domestic Product to health and at the same time genuinely address unemployment, landlessness, and low salaries that aggravate poverty and ill health.  Improvements in the health situation of the people could be achieved if the government has the political will to prioritize social services and free the people from hunger and poverty by implementing genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.

The key to 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.

June 16, 2017

Read the full report as an article by Eleanor Jara, one of the Executive Directors of COMMED, in Rappler.com

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