‘Universal health care still possible’

HEALTH Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial remains confident the dream of achieving Universal Health Care in the Philippines would soon become a reality after studying the universal system being implemented in Cuba.

“We hope that our country will benefit from the Cuban medical cooperation in attaining All for Health towards Health for All!” said Ubial, echoing her clarion call for the Philippine public health system.

She expressed optimism the country would have the opportunity to benefit from medical cooperation with the Caribbean nation which is sending a team of Cuban health professionals to the country.

“This visit aims to learn from Cuba’s public health care system in order to work towards providing Universal Health Care in the Philippines,” said Ubial.

She commended the Cuban health system and expressed her interest in holding further exchanges, noting that medical cooperation with Cuba has been ongoing since 1960 and has been very beneficial.

The health secretary led the Philippine delegation in an official visit to Havana, Cuba last August 23 to 26, 2016 to learn about Cuba’s popular health system and have a fruitful exchange of information with health authorities.

President Rodrigo Duterte, impressed with Cuba’s success in public health, strongly endorsed the visit which was facilitated by the World Health Organization. 

Last Aug. 24, 2016, the delegation met with a group of specialists from the Hermanos Ameijeiras Clinical and Surgical Hospital in the Cuban capital highlighting the importance of its role in introducing new technologies in the country.

The health chief also visited the 19 de Abril Policlinic in Havana, where the “Family Doctor and Nurse Program” was explained to the group. 

On August 25, the group visited the Escuela Latino Americana de Medicina, an institution that has trained more than 27,000 doctors from various countries including Philippines. Three (3) Filipino medical students had the chance to meet secretary.

The members of the visiting delegation studied information concerning preparation and response to emergencies from the Unidad Central de Cooperacion Medicina (Central Unit of Medical Cooperation). 

This training institution has deployed 45,893 doctors in 86 countries to respond to emergencies and disaster since 1984.

The Philippine delegation held an exit meeting with Dr. Roberto Morales, head of the Ministry of the Public Health, and other Cuban health officials with whom Ubial discussed health issues of bilateral interest.

Cancer survivor group New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) president Emer Rojas said there is so much that the Philippines can learn from the Cuban health care system, which is recognized even by the WHO for its efficiency in making health services available to all.

Despite its limited resources, he said health care in Cuba is free and universal and emphasized that health is a fundamental right that is enshrined in their constitution and guaranteed by the state.

Rojas said the Philippines can take inspiration from the Cuban model considering that access to health services is a huge problem in the country.

“It is estimated that 63% of Filipinos die without ever seeing a doctor and many do not have access to medicines specially in rural areas. By taking inspiration from Cuba’s health care, we hope that access to health services will improve under the Duterte administration,” he said.

He noted that Cuba’s public health system is mainly anchored on preventive health care which enables the country to use its limited resources to research and development resulting to quality medical services.

“They have family doctors per area who oversea the health of families living around clinics. They do annual checkups and assessments for free. By doing these the system prevents people from getting sick and resources are used for other purposes like improving training for medical practitioners and technology development,” the NVAP president said.

Rojas, a global cancer ambassador and representative for the disabled of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, said improving the country’s public health system would greatly benefit smokers and PWDs who are two of the most disadvantaged sectors when it comes to accessing medical services.

Rojas noted that despite an improved membership enrollment by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) access to health care services is still limited to paying patients and health facilities mostly located in urban areas.

“Improving health care accessibility is an essential part of development. We are happy that the Duterte administration is taking the step in the right direction,” he said.

Topics: Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial , Universal Health Care in the Philippines
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