Gabriela urges health secretary to issue public statement regarding government’s plan on Fabella Hospital

Gabriela is hoping that the health secretary's recent visit to Cuba will prompt her to abandon the previous administration's plan for the corporatization of Fabella Hospital.

Women’s group and TWHA partner Gabriela met with the new secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) to urge her to make an official statement regarding the real status of Fabella Hospital.

Gabriela has asserted that the lack of any official statement from the management of Fabella Hospital regarding its earlier attempt to transfer the hospital’s medical equipment and close some of its service departments has caused apprehension among poor pregnant mothers who form the hospital’s client base for more than eighty years as well as the hospital’s health personnel.

“The piecemeal shutdown and transfer of equipment from the original location to several announced transfer points has caused confusion to both patients and health personnel,” said Gabriela deputy secretary general Obeth Montes.

With Montes was Gabriela partylist representative Emmie De Jesus and representatives of Alliance of Health Workers, Fabella Hospital Employees Association and TWHA country office.

Montes also urged Health Secretary Jean Paulyn Rusell-Ubial to make public statement on the real status of Fabella Hospital to dispel notions that onerous contracts were entered into by the previous administration.

“It is in the interest of women to know the real score of the largest birthing facility in the country that caters to marginalized mothers. Should there be anomalies, these should be immediately investigated. Meantime, the DOH must resolve to seek budget for the rehabilitation of the reported condemned buildings, for upgrade of facilities and for upgrade of salaries of its personnel,” said Montes.

The group reiterated their demand to scrap the policies of privatization and corporatization in health services and instead implement a free, comprehensive and progressive health care system that is pro-poor, service-oriented and state-subsidized.

Ubial promised to act on Gabriela’s appeal. She, however, declined to issue a public statement regarding the new administration’s plan on Fabella Hospital pending President Duterte’s approval of the department’s health agenda.

Cuba’s health care system

As a side issue, Ubial could not help but express admiration on Cuba’s health system citing its major achievements such as effective primary and preventive health care services which are comparable to, if not better than, most developed countries’, the finest quality of maternal and child care, high investment on health and its human resources and the remarkable ratio between health workers and the country’s population.

She also made some comparisons between the Philippine’s and Cuba’s health systems:  Cuba allocates 28% of its annual budget on health while the Philippines allocates 4-5%; Cuba’s per capita expenditures on health is $460 while the Philippines’ is $76; the ratio of doctor to population in Cuba is 1:1000 while in the Philippines, it is 1:33,000; working mothers in Cuba are given a paid maternity leave of 1 year while working mothers in the Philippines are given only a two-month leave.

“I was surprised to learn that a doctor in Cuba serves only 10-15 patients a day. I remember when I was still serving in a government hospital in Cotabato (Mindanao), I normally served 100-150 patients a day,” said Ubial.

Secretary Ubial was in Cuba last August to observe and study Cuba’s health care system following President Duterte’s pronouncement that the Philippines should learn from the its highly successful public health care system.

“Cuba’s outstanding public health care system should have made the health secretary realize that privatization and corporatization of government hospitals will only benefit private corporations and will deny the majority of the population of accessible and affordable health care”, said Montes.