TWHA Philippine partners launch a book on the impacts of privatization on people's access to health

TWHA Philippine partners launched a book that discusses the impacts of privatization on people's access to health.

TWHA Philippine partners on April 7, World Health Day, launched a book that examines how the government, through its privatization policies in the health sector, has violated the people's right to health.

The book entitled "Critical Condition: Privatized Health in the Philippines" enumerates various policies of the government that are steadily making public health services a thing of the past as the state unashamedly continues to pass its responsibility of providing health care to its people to private corporations whose only interest is to gain profit.

The book is the result of the collaborative efforts of TWHA partners, Ibon, Gabriela, Advocates for Community Health and Council for Health and Development. It presents the outcome of the field research conducted in the program areas of the partners through focus group discussions, key informant interviews, intercept interviews and a mother and child health and nutrition survey.

The research is a validation of the partners' assertion that past and current administrations have willfully neglected the health sector to create a conducive condition for corporate takeover of public health services and facilities. The current national budget for health only amounts to 3% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), 2% lower than the World Health Organization's recommendation of 5 % of GDP. In many regions, there is a perennial problem of inadequate health facilities and medicines. Private hospitals outnumber public hospitals. The existing public hospitals and health facilities are ill equipped that the people are forced to go to private hospitals and pay the high cost of services. Most health centers in barangays (villages) do not even have basic medical instruments.

The book also disproves government's claim that the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program of President Aquino's administration will improve people's access to health by opening government hospitals to corporatization and ultimately to privatization. It cited as example the case of the country's hemodialysis center which was built through PPP. Instead of delivering services to the poor, the center caters mainly to those who can afford to pay the full amount of service. Another government hospital, Jose Reyes Memorial Center which is now operated by a Japanese corporation under a joint venture agreement is charging exorbitant fees on services such as x-ray. The impending modernization of The Philippine Orthopedic Center (the country's only hospital especializing in orthopedic disorders) to be undertaken by Megawide-World Citi Consortium, a big local corporation, will automatically reduce beds for indigent non-paying patients from 85% of the bed capacity to 70%.

The book is a good resource for health organizations and individuals who are persistently working to uphold the people's right to health amidst the adverse impacts of privatization on the health system. In the words of Mel Yandog, a community health worker from one of the impoverished communities in Metro Manila who attended the book-launching: "We thank you (partners) for your untiring commitment to gather data that are very useful and important in raising the awareness of the people and mobilizing them to fight for their right to health. We need to act now and respond to the call of freeing ourselves from the corporate greed. This book will become a valuable instrument for organizing and on how we can defend and uphold our right to health."