"Health care is not simply building hospitals and training health workers."
This pandemic has proven the importance of having an adequate and accessible health care system. Undeniably, hospitals with modern equipment and adequate supplies are most sought after. There is a general assumption that patients have higher chances of getting better faster in well-equipped health facilities.
We rely so much on the capacity of our health care facilities right now. In the past month, we have seen in the news a number of people dying outside hospitals, those staying in tents waiting to be admitted for treatment. Patients die without receiving adequate health care services. This is not new to us. In far-flung places, we have heard stories of people dying without having seen any doctor their entire life.
This is the tragic backstory of our health care system. Apart from the high volume of patients, there is the perennial lack of health care facilities, equipment, and even medical manpower to provide competent health care. Unfortunately, the Province of Quezon is not spared from this.
When I was in Congress, I always asked heads of agencies to step up their performance before we pass their budget. In 2016, as Minority leader, I brought up the issue of lack of MRI equipment in hospitals in Quezon. Secretary Duque, who was representing the Department of Health during the budget deliberations, promised to deliver MRI equipment to the province of Quezon. He promised to deliver two: One for Veterans and one for Quezon. This was approved by the President.
Five years later, the promise is still unfulfilled.
When we say that health is a constitutional right, it implies that there is a duty on the part of the government to provide health care services that can sufficiently and satisfactorily meet the needs of the public. Failure to do so demonstrates sheer incompetence and gross negligence. Health is a basic right of every Filipino. While I understand that we have a different priority to address now, the five years of waiting cannot possibly be attributed to this pandemic.
The requested and approved budget for capital outlay of the DOH since 2019 has significantly decreased. Now, we are slowly suffering the consequences of an inequitable and inadequately-funded health care system. Perhaps, it is high time for the government to reorganize its priorities. We cannot rely on mere promises or conjectures. Promises cannot treat patients’ illnesses.
Hence, I call on the Department of Health to act swiftly on their long-standing promises. Let me emphasize that health care, as a sign of good governance and public service, is not simply building hospitals and training health workers. Health care inherently includes ensuring that such services are available, accessible, adequate, and reliable. Our mandate as government officials transcends providing concrete and tangible goods. Our duty is to protect the rights of the people which includes the right to health. It is high time this was reflected in government action.