TWO Cebu-based health organizations urged the new administration to implement health reforms in the country and adopt the People’s Health Agenda, a set of health-related demands launched last June.

The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW)-Cebu Chapter and the Visayas Primary Health Care Services, Inc. (VPHCS) called on the Aquino administration to prioritize people’s health and improve the conditions of health workers.

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“Patients and health workers have suffered long enough in the past years from decreasing health and hospital budgets, inadequacy and increasing cost of public health services, and low salaries and inhumane working conditions that push most health professionals to go abroad,” they said in a joint statement.

The cost of medicines and health services, even in public hospitals, has led to deaths among poor patients, they added.

Feeling helpless

“Health workers are demoralized because they cannot give quality and effective health services despite their best efforts,” they continued.

The demands listed in the People’s Health Agenda, which health groups will present to President Benigno Aquino III this month, are: ensure the people’s right to health;

promote and uphold the interests of health professionals and health workers; implement progressive health policies and programs; and ensure the people’s overall well-being; and address the social determinants of health.

Health organizations also called for the immediate release of 43 health workers detained last February in Morong, Bataan; an increase in the national health budget to at least P90 billion; free health services for the poor in all levels of health care; free essential medicines for the poor in rural health centers and public hospitals; and full implementation of a salary increase for nurses, doctors and other health workers.

Cheaper drugs

AHW National Secretary General Jossel Ebesate visited Cebu last Friday to discuss the health agenda in a forum attended by health professionals and students.

Ebesate tackled, among others, the need to develop and strengthen the public health care system and to nationalize the drug industry in order to provide the Filipino people with accessible, affordable and effective medicines.

“Wala pang bansang nagkaroon ng maayos na health care na walang sariling drug industry (No country has managed to provide effective health care without its own drug industry),” he said.

“Health is a right that continues to be denied Filipinos. Addressing the worsening state of the people’s health is one of the biggest challenges facing the Aquino administration,” the groups said in a statement.

Ebesate also pointed out 70 percent of Filipinos cannot afford to buy medicines, despite the passage of the Universal Cheaper Medicine Law and the lowering of prices of medications through the Maximum Drug Retail Price.

“The inadequacy and inaccessibility of public health services is worsening. Public hospitals have been charging for every supply, laboratory and diagnostic procedure that used to be free. Privatization of public hospitals has made health services more expensive,” he added.