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Monday, March 4, 2024

A health-driven restart

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"We should not let this pandemic go to waste by going back to old, problematic systems."


By now we are all aware that our health system is inadequate to handle our basic needs for a balanced, healthy and sustainable life. Long before COVID-19 wreaked havoc, we have had issues with a system which was getting increasingly skewed in favor of a hospital-based, curative medical progarm instead of a preventive, community-based one. Not that hospital care with all the attendant costs is anathema. Not at all. It just so happens that it promotes a kind of dependency aping Western style medical care inappropriate to countries like the Philippines with very limited resources limiting the access to accessible and affordable medical care of majority of the people.

Realizing that unsustainable set up, the late Senator and former Secretary of Health Johnny Flavier tried to reverse the same by emphasizing preventive, community-based treatments highlighted by his “Doctors for the Barrios” program and the use of indigenous medicines and practices modelled after the successful Cuban health care system.

In the words of Doctor Hildegrades ‘Heal Doc’ Dineros, a noted public health advocate and former PhilhHalth President/CEO, the "general health condition of the Filipino is highly challenged." The healthcare delivery system, Dineros noted, is flawed, the healthcare culture is anything except being focused on the people's health as the administration of healthcare programs specially in the public health sector is essentially irresponsible fraught with misrepresentations and total abandon.

Noted Dineros: "Health facilities and infrastructure, providers, supplies and programs always fall short of the standard provision for adequate healthcare delivery. The Filipino is shortchanged. The current DoH administrators appear to be functioning robotically, willingly conspiring with the dictates of Big Pharma and their minions within the WHO. Even the attempts to design a combined system of the best indigenous practices with Western medicine

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to suit our situation has been unduly thwarted. Proof of this is the continued lobby against the institution of a Maximum Retail Price (MRP) system for essential medicines and the use of generic medicines."

Dineros’ PhilHealth stint was aborted when he attempted to put a stop to the embedded web of deceit, misdirection and fund manipulation right within the upper echelons of its leadership. This was sapping its ability to provide much needed assistance to its members.

Now Dineros has proposed in a paper a preventive, promotive and rehabilitative health care system which optimizes the use of the country's limited resources with an enhanced and well distributed public health system. This will provide the needed primary and preventive care at the barangay level while positioning municipal, district, provincial and even regional centers for the public's intermediate care needs. It is at this level and at the tertiary and specialist care levels where the private sector can be harnessed to double up with the government specialist hospitals with incentives and even funding guarantees.

The big challenge, Dineros notes, is how to optimize the allotted resources for the public health care system funded by both national and local governments. Again, the call for a robust preventive health care program focused on proper diagnostics, propagation and use of nutritious care plans using as much resources available at the grassroots, promotion of a family-cum-community health care culture including the institutionalization of a barangay based corps of health care providers.

The general idea, as he proposed, is to ensure that as much as possible health care concerns are immediately and properly resolved at the grassroots levels limiting the need for prolonged hospital care to the most serious and critical cases. As he correctly puts it, only a healthy population can sustain equitable growth and development.

We should not let this pandemic go to waste by going back to the old, discredited health care system.

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