Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Third SOS solidarity mission off to Eastern Samar

The third solidarity mission of health disaster group Samahang Operasyon Sagip (SOS) is travelling again to Eastern Samar to reach the upland areas of Quinapondan, Giporlos, and Balangiga in Eastern Samar today, December 17 until the 22nd. These communities very scarcely received relief and medical assistance since the onslaught of typhoon Haiyan.

SOS President Rosalinda C. Tablang announced that for the third wave of relief and medical mission efforts, they will be serving at least 1,500 families in barangays Sto. Niño, Catilian, and Anislag in Quinapondan; barangays Roxas, Huknan, 6, and 7 in Giporlos and; barangays Gimmayuhan, Cansumangkay, and Bunga in Balangiga -- all in Eastern Samar province.

In the midst of all the merry-making and warm heartedness this Yuletide season, Tablang appealed to “kind souls who may find joy in giving.” “Not everybody may have as much in their pockets, but in so many other ways, each one can help,” she added.

Aside from the family food packs that consist of 8 kilos rice, 5 pieces canned goods, ½ kg sugar, ½ L cooking oil, ½ kg mung beans, ¼ kg salt, ½ kg dried fish, and ½ bar laundry detergent, we are also bringing hygiene kits, plastic sheets, nails, flashlights, candles, and matches,” she said.

Tablang expressed that aside from the relief packs, the communities requested for simple construction materials to enable them to build their modest shelters anew. “We are also bringing some gasoline to power the community chainsaw because the people want to rebuild their bridge in Barangay Huknan that was toppled down by [typhoon] Haiyan,” she noted.

SOS volunteers are also packing donated blankets, personal hygiene kits including sanitary napkins and jerry cans for potable water storage.

For the medical mission, the SOS team is headed by four doctors, including an infectious disease specialist from the United States, and several nurses.

Together with the communities in Leyte and Samar in the Visayas, SOS is untiringly calling for immediate and comprehensive rehabilitation efforts.

The continuous medical and relief missions of SOS are made possible through the kindness of donors, from all ages and all walks of life, here and abroad. SOS is continuing its resource generation drives for the long term rehabilitation of affected communities in Leyte and Samar. For inquiries, please contact Mel, 0947-4535788 or Grace, (+632) 929-8109. They may also be emailed at sos.phils@gmail.com.##

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Foreign loan will further bury the nation into the quagmire of debt and poverty

The last thing the Filipino people need right now is to pay-off more debts in the future.

This was Samahang Operasyong Sagip’s (SOS) reaction to reports that the Philippine government plans on incurring new loans from the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) amounting to US$1 billion. The two financial institution giants appropriated US$500 million each for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) affected areas.

SOS is a disaster management group made up of different health NGOs and advocates.

Latest government estimates say that a successful reconstruction effort in the typhoon’s aftermath can amount to P250 billion (US$5.8 million).

Rosalinda C. Tablang, SOS president, noted that while additional infusion of budget may sound encouraging to some, she reminded the public that what these banks are giving are loans and not grants. “Loans are meant to be paid. And, when a government decides to borrow from lenders such as WB and ADB, it’s the people who will pay later on,” Tablang said.

She further commented that the storm surge and foreign loan have one thing in common – both are catastrophically fatal to the people as this means that Filipinos, including the victims of Typhoon Yolanda will be further burdened in paying the new calamity loan. The Philippine’s foreign debt has reached $60.3 billion at the end of 2012.

SOS also said that the ADB and WB are at the “height of their insensitivity and greed for taking advantage of the recent disaster to rake in more profit through loan interest.” Tablang commented that loans are always with conditionality, “paying off the principal amount plus the interest will mean larger cuts in the national budget for the coming years.” This will translate to smaller allotments for basic social services such as health, education, housing, agricultural subsidy and wage increase among others, she argued.

Instead of loans, SOS asserted that the government “should use foreign grants, local donations, and specific allotments from the national budget to rehabilitate the regions devastated by Yolanda.

As of this writing, the Foreign Aid and Transparency Hub (FAiTH) website marked a total of PhP4,604,299,695.10 or US$104,968,300 of foreign aid from various international agencies.

On top of these, the government should “increase the national calamity fund in the next year’s appropriation.” Calamity fund for this year was meagerly allotted PhP7.5 billion or a measly .75% of the PhP2.006 trillion 2013 national budget.

Tablang said that the Aquino government should have at least shown a little degree of independence and self-reliance.

Instead of entertaining loans from international financial institutions should decisively allocate significant budget for post-Yolanda rehabilitation efforts. Billions of people’s money that are being stashed away to corruption should be spent wisely to help millions of families that were rendered homeless and economically devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.

Should it sincerely wish to help the people, the Aquino administration can create rehabilitation funds without having to be enslaved by foreign loans that have strings attached to it. If Aquino pushes through with the loans from IMF-WB, he makes it all too obvious, again, that foreign domination through economic control is unforgiving even in the most trying times,” she ended.##

Sunday, December 1, 2013

DOH guilty of malversation of public money for wasted medicines

While eight out of ten Filipinos cannot afford to buy essential medicines, the Department of Health (DOH) wasted P17.5 million worth of medicines acquired in 2012 and prior years.

Council for Health and Development (CHD), pioneer of community based approach to health, tagged the health department’s latest hubbub as “unacceptable and inhumane” because the expired and wasted medicines “could have saved hundreds of poor people’s lives.

In a report published on November 12, 2013, the Commission on Audit (COA), state auditors revealed that P6, 647, 821.45 worth of drugs and medicines were found to be expired in the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC), Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMMC), BGH in Region II, and Center for Health and Development (CHD) – Bicol. The report also indicated that another P10, 857, 388.05 worth of medical supplies, drugs and medicines were overstocked exceeding the normal three months requirements in Tondo Medical Center (TMC), and Southern Isabela General Hospital (SIGH) in Region II. The DOH wastage totaled to P17, 505, 209.50.

COA furthered that the DOH retained hospitals and agencies did not have specific recipients for its procured stocks and did not have proper planning, monitoring and control on utilization and distribution.

Dr. Eleanor A. Jara, CHD executive director said that the expired stocks in NCMH and POC included TB medicines that could have provided “50 children or 68 adult TB patients with full course treatments.

She also noted that expired stocks in BGH Region II also included 1,583 packs of medicines from the DOH P100 Project. The P100 is a package of a complete course of antibiotics or maintenance drugs for hypertension, diabetes or asthma. COA indicated that these packs were “found to be expired for almost two years because these have to be issued per pack and patients prefer to buy medicines outside which is per piece.

This account just goes to show how DOH failed to hit the nail’s head in terms of making medicines affordable for the poor. Poor compliance is not solely because a patient chooses not to complete the course or faithfully follow a maintenance regimen. Poor compliance is largely because of the expensive prices of medicine,” Dr. Jara shared.

She added that Health Undersecretary Ted Herbosa’s statements to the media that the expired medicines and supplies may have been acquired before they assumed office can very well be likened to Pontius Pilate’s hand washing.

It’s the easy way out. Current DOH officials should have investigated all nooks and crannies such as this as soon as they assumed office.

The expired medicines are a reflection of the failed systems and policies DOH has. “It’s very sad that precious funds from the public coffers have gone to waste instead of providing for free medicines and health services,” Dr. Jara ended.##


Eleanor A. Jara, M.D.
Executive Director, Council for Health and Development
0927-9259413 / (+632) 929-8109

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Health disaster group: All is not yet well -- epidemic may soon take over affected communities; call for comprehensive rehabilitation plan

(Philippines) – In its press conference today, disaster health group Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS) criticized the government anew for its inefficiency and inept leadership in responding to Yolanda’s backwash after seeing for themselves the concrete situation of the super typhoon aftermath and its survivors.

Returning from a five-day medical and relief missions in Western and Eastern Samar, the 40-staff team of SOS volunteers reported that massive economic dislocation is experienced in the fourteen (14) barangays of Hernani and Gen. McArthur of Easter Samar and Basey of Western Samar.

Rosalinda C. Tablang, president of SOS said that the main sources of livelihood were gone. The strong floods swept away or destroyed fishing boats, felled coconut trees, and submerged crops.

The people are left with nothing. It’s been nineteen (19) days since the disaster and the survivors see no light at the end of the tunnel.

Based on stories from some barangay officials, Tablang said it is “not clear” what the local and national government is planning for the rehabilitation of communities. “As to how long the makeshift tents in Brgy. Batang in Hernani Eastern Samar will stand to provide shelter to the survivors, nobody knows. No serious government aid or rehabilitation plan is apparent,” Tablang lamented.

Meanwhile, SOS convenor and medical doctor Darby Santiago warned that another surge of disaster might hit the distraught villages. “Because of poor sanitation, lack of clean water sources, and absence of latrines, cholera epidemic may soon take over the affected families if immediate health intervention is further delayed,” Santiago shared.

He said that the people’s battle to survive is not yet over. Epidemics could soon arise if government health authorities do not act soon.

The SOS medical team was composed of nine (9) medical doctors with different specializations, fifteen (15) nurses, two (2) medical interns, and four (4) health workers. They served more than 1,000 patients. The people’s medical conditions ranged from upper respiratory tract infections, hypertension, arthritis, error of refraction, suspected primary tuberculosis, diarrhea, musculo-skeletal pain, and urinary tract infections. Some obstetric cases were also seen by the OB Gyn doctor of the group.

SOS also slammed the Department of Social Work and Development’s (DSWD) pronouncement to end the food relief provision in December and implement the “cash-for-work” and “food-for-work” program for the survivors of typhoon Yolanda. Tablang cited an interview aired by a news program to a woman who said she is taking part in the DSWD repacking of relief goods in a DSWD managed warehouse because she hopes to take home 6 kilos of rice given to volunteers like her. The woman said she needed the rice to feed her family because they only received a relief pack once since the typhoon hit.

Despite millions of donated cash and goods to the affected populations, skewed government policies make it more difficult for the survivors to receive immediate relief. Amidst the people’s loss and empty stomachs, the government should provide livelihood and house reconstruction support instead of making people work for donated goods,” said Tablang.

Tablang and Santiago reiterated that at the end of the day, “the survival of the affected population and rehabilitation of communities is the government’s call.

They called on the Filipino people, as well as health professionals, to share their resources and lend their talent and time to the affected families.

Likewise, SOS demands the government to immediately and decisively (1) continue food and relief distribution; (2) act on rebuilding the lives and livelihood of the affected population; (3) address the immediate health problems and concerns of the affected families; (4) institute and implement a comprehensive disaster risk reduction program geared at building the capacities of communities in preparing and responding to disasters; (5) increase the budget for disaster risk reduction.##

Fact Sheet: Medical-Relief Mission
November 20-25, 2013

  • Medical Mission – 1,088 beneficiaries from 5 barangays in the municipality of Hernani and 3 barangays in Municipality of General MacArthur in Eastern Samar province; 6 barangays in Basey, Western Samar.
  • Relief Distribution operation – 1,664 families from 14 barangays in municipalities of General MacArthur, Hernani, Basey.
  • The areas covered are mostly far-flung barangays outside the town centers who have received few or no relief / assistance.

Team composition:
3 medical mission teams and 2 relief distribution teams, from a 40-man team with 10 doctors, 16 nurses, 2 medical interns and health workers and volunteers.
General Observations & Findings:
  1. Many barangays especially those far from town centers have received few or no relief assistance from any group, whether government or private. One example is Barangay Cacatmonan in the municipality of Hernani, where the typhoon destroyed all but 1 out of 35 houses. The barangay captain and several counselors, carrying a list of survivors in the barangay, requested that their barangay be given relief goods.
    Other survivors lament that only those with high numbers of casualties are prioritized so that their barangays are not given or seldom included as beneficiaries.
  2. Some cadavers and debris are still not retrieved and cleared in the barangays.
  3. The survivors are living in most vulnerable conditions:
    1. Some are staying in evacuation center in public schools (some barangays in Basey), some in tents made from tarpaulins.
    2. Lack of electricity make night time pitch black and movement in the areas difficult and dangerous.
    3. Survivors have difficulty cooking food in tin cans using firewood from debris.
  4. Major health risks which could lead to serious disease outbreaks were noted:
    1. Lack of water supply.
    2. Lack of toilet facilities.
    3. Lack of shelter.
    4. Irregular provision of food.
    5. Crowded condition in evacuation areas.
  5. Common illnesses include: upper respiratory tract infections, hypertension, arthritis, error of refraction, diarrhea, wound and injuries, skin diseases.
  6. Other needs: people verbalized need to reconstruct their houses and desire to start livelihood activities. The people lined-up for construction materials such as nails, saw, hammers.
  1. Systematic way to reach out to far-flung areas and provide urgently-needed relief and assistance.
  2. Immediate retrieval of cadavers and clearing of debris, both for faster relief efforts and health and psychological recovery of survivors.
  3. Immediate and comprehensive health interventions to address potential sources of outbreaks and epidemics. These include immediate clearing of debris, provision of water source, construction of shelter, construction or provision of latrines, provision/assistance in food production. Medical teams and service groups must reach far-flung areas not only those in town centers.
  4. Start reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts: provision of construction materials, livelihood, food production, and economic activities.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

SOS volunteers to conduct medical and relief mission in Eastern Samar

When Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS) signaled the alarm to help the people of Samar, scores of volunteers from different fields enlisted to take their part in the national and international effort to aid the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Basing from reports that some towns in Eastern and Western Samar are still unreached by government aid as of this writing, the SOS, in coordination with its partners in Samar Island, identified three (3) areas to bring immediate relief and medical aid: General McArthur and Hernani in Eastern Samar and, Basey in Western Samar. SOS teams will be leaving for Samar on November 20 and stay on until the 25th.

Despite the propensity of damage and loss to lives, adequate government aid has not reached the peoples of these three towns,” said Rosalinda C. Tablang, president of SOS. She added that inefficiency and bureaucratic processes has “gotten in the way of delivering food and medicines that are urgently needed” in these towns among others.

Tablang shared that their medical and relief delivery teams plan to distribute relief packs and conduct medical and minor surgery services among the affected families and individuals in said towns. They hope to bring relief and medical aid to more than 1,500 families there.

The medical team is composed of 10 medical doctors from different specialties, registered nurses, and health workers. The relief delivery team on the other hand is composed of volunteers from Manila, representatives of health NGOs and a journalist and private group Samahan ng mga Litratista sa Rizal (SLR Camera Club). Medico International, a German-based NGO will also be joining the relief and medical mission.

SOS, established in 1990 as a response to the effects of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, said that the mission will only be the first among several efforts that they will do to help the people of Samar.

With this initial visit, we also hope to draw up the master plan for the rehabilitation of the said communities in the months to come. Much will be based on the initial assessment from the ground,” Tablang said.

What SOS and its volunteers do is to bring aid to the people from the people which will help them carry on with what is left. However, apart from bringing aid, the task of rebuilding communities anew lies in the hand of the state because it is their primary responsibility and they have all the resources to realize the rebuilding program. But this requires resolve and political will. Unfortunately, the government lacks that,” Tablang ended.


Rosalinda C. Tablang
- 0927-9259413 | (+632)929-8109

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

CBHPs forego anniversary celebration, re-courses efforts to Typhoon Yolanda victims

In the light of the massive destruction and scores of lives lost in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), the Community Based Health Program, through its national organization Council for Health and Development (CHD), is foregoing the celebration of its 40th anniversary on November 12-14, 2013 at the UP College of Medicine, University of the Philippines Manila.

In lieu of the festivities originally lined up for the CBHP@40 Fair and the scheduled 4th National Colloquium for Community Health Practitioners and Advocates, the CHD is re-coursing its efforts in generating all-out efforts to help the survivors and affected families of ST Yolanda. Resources gathered from friends and sponsors to the CBHP@40 Fair shall likewise be re-coursed to the relief efforts to be made for ST Yolanda victims.

ST Yolanda, equivalent to a category five hurricane, made landfall before dawn of November 8 bringing gusts that reached 379 kph (235 mph), waves as high as 15 m (45 ft), and up to 400 mm (15.75 inches) of rain in several places.

As of press time, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reports 255 individuals were reported dead (Red Cross count is 1,200 as of November 10), 71 injured and 38 still missing. A total of 2,095,262 families or 9,679,059 persons were affected in 7,251 barangays in 471 municipalities and 51 cities in 41 provinces of Regions IV-A, IV-B, V, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI, and CARAGA. Out of the total population affected, 101,762 families or 477,735 persons were displaced.

Flood waters are still reported to be 10 feet high brought about by storm surge in Tacloban City and Palo City in Leyte, Visayas. Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez said that it is possible that the death toll could reach 10,000 people. ST Yolanda raged across Leyte and Samar and turned roads into rivers. The local government unit of Samar reported 370 dead and 2,000 missing in their province alone as of November 10. Cebu also had its share of destruction; it is the second largest city with a population of 2.5 million.

CHD together with Samahan Operasyong Sagip (SOS) is appealing for donations and volunteers to the affected populations of ST Yolanda. Relief delivery is the immediate response to extend aid to all survivors in the Visayas. Donations in cash or in kind (preferably food items that are not easily perishable, medicines, first aid materials, sleeping mats/plastic, toiletries, etc.) may be coursed to:

For cash donations, please send it through:

Account name: Samahang Operasyong Sagip, Inc.
Metro Bank
Savings Account # 636-3-63608747-6
Swift Code: MBTCPHMM
Metrobank-Examiner Quezon Avenue Branch,
1517 Ave Maria Bldg, Quezon City, Philippines

Donations in-kind may be brought to:
Council for Health and Development
#8 Mines Street, Brgy. Vasra, Visayas Avenue
Quezon City, Philippines

Volunteers may contact:
(+632)929-8109 or 921-0586 / chdmancom@gmail.com / sos.ondoy@gmail.com

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Strength of the Nation Hinges on the Health of the Community

CBHPs (Community Based Health Programs): Celebrating 40 Years of Serving the People. - If good governance starts local, then meaningful public health service must be communal.

I have been in the health profession for about 17 years now, a short period of time compared to my professors in the university and colleagues who’ve been in community medicine for ages, but throughout that short period of time, I saw how the Philippine health situation ironically deteriorated through the years despite the breakthroughs in medical science and technology.

One defective health policy after another (e.g. privatization, deregulation, decentralization) negated whatever gains we harvested from all-out efforts of concerned community doctors and public health professionals. This resulted in health care becoming more inaccessible to the majority as one administration after another (post-Marcos era) failed to address the health needs of the population.

Although the future may seem bleak, there is a silver lining to all these. Unknown to many of us who live in the fast-paced life of the cities, there exist ordinary people, health professionals, nurses, midwives, hospital workers, and doctors who continue to band together and work for the change that we all desire for our children. They don’t need awards or recognition for doing what they do. They just do their work with only the people’s welfare in mind. They are the unsung heroes.

Flash back to 1973

The gravity of the health situation correlated with the economic, political, and cultural panorama in the country. The raging economic crisis and political turmoil resulted in an all-time high poverty index and widespread neglect of basic social services.

Taking inspiration from the concept and practice of the “barefoot doctors of China,” nuns Sr. Xavier Marie Bual SPC (+), Sr. Eva Varon MSM (+), and Sr. Mary Grenough, MM turned the tables when they pioneered community-based approach to health care or what came to be known as Community Based Health Program.

In its core, CBHPs view that health problems should be seen in context of Philippine society. CBHP is not the answer to all the problems but serve as a means to initiate social transformation.

CBHPs also believe that organizing is the key and the backbone to its continuing existence and growth. For CBHPs to succeed there must be recognition that health problems need to be solved through people’s participation and organization.

Through their organizations, the people can articulate their problems and needs; collectively analyze them, and jointly work towards their resolution. Solid organizing, on the other hand, ensures the active participation of community members in the economic, political, and social aspects of development.

Rooted in communities, CBHPs aspire for a health care that is nationalist, relevant, accessible, and responsive to the needs of the people.

Countryside revolution: Empowering the people.

From a handful of community health workers who initially trained in the different Diocese in Ilagan (Isabela), Palo (Tacloban), and Iligan (Lanao del Norte), there are now more than 10,000 CHWs serving their communities in most of the major provinces. CHWs have become an integral part of their communities, providing basic health services with emphasis on self-reliance and disease prevention.

One such volunteer is Virginia Serendo of Barangay Bug-ang, Toboso, Negros Occidental. Around six to 10 patients visit her house every day.

The funny thing is that she is not a barangay leader or a fortune-teller. Neighbors and other folks coming from the far sitios of their village frequent her home for health advice and treatment.

Serendo is one of the CHWs trained by a CBHP in Negros in 2009. After finishing the three-level Basic Health Skills Training course, she has learned to diagnose simple diseases, prepare herbal medicines, and administer acupuncture and acupressure. She was able to apply what she learned by providing health care services to community members.

Her health knowledge and skills have earned her the trust and confidence of the community members. They seek her for health advice and for various health treatments, but say she and her fellow CHWs never hesitate to refer patients to the hospital or clinic if the medical condition of a patient is beyond their capacity.

“Our skills will never compensate for a doctor’s, but in places where most of our villagers have died without seeing a doctor, the diagnostic skills we have learned through various trainings have helped decrease the feeling of helplessness during times of crisis,” Serendo said.

Community members are so confident of her skills in preparing herbal medicine, particularly lagundi that they pool some amount and request Serendo to produce herbal medicines in bulk for the need of the community.

Health mass movement

In the face of a disorganized Philippine health system that urban-centered and focused in tertiary care, the practice of community-managed health programs made significant contributions not only in terms of improving the community’s health but in awakening and mobilizing the people to deal with the root causes of poverty-related sickness.

The CBHP helped transform thousands of trained and dedicated community health workers into organized community health committees and teams that take care not only of the community members’ health, but also lead a continuing campaign to uphold the people’s right to health.

They continue to lobby the government to address the health needs of the people – on whom sovereignty resides and from whom all government authority emanates as stated in our Constitution.

This specific duty is covered in the so-called “general welfare clause” of the basic law of the land,. Aside from guaranteeing the people’s the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the Charter calls on the State to “promote the general welfare” of all.

Thus, today, in the midst of a raging controversy involving the pocketing of more than P10 billion of taxpayers’ money, it is only right that we demand from President Aquino that these funds be allotted to social services that would directly benefit the people.

The President must try his very best to emulate these CHWs or at the very least reciprocate their heroism with an act of selflessness and nationalism on his part.

Celebrating 40 years of serving the people

On November 12-14, we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of CBHP in the Philippines with the theme “Apatnapung Taon ng Puspusang Pakikibaka at Paglilingkod sa Sambayanan”.

A fair would be held on November 12 to 14 at the UP Manila College of Medicine grounds, coordinated by the national secretariat, the Council for Health and Development and the office of Dean Agnes Mejia.

Other commemorative activities and attractions include exhibits, interactive booths, acupuncture demonstration, herbal preparation, and sharing of experiences with CHWs from different CBHPs in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Meanwhile, the 4th National Colloquium of Community Health Practitioners and Advocates titled “KKK: Kalusugan, Kabuluhan, Kabayanihan” would be held simultaneously on November 13-14 at the Buenafe Hall, UP College of Medicine, Manila.

- Dr. Darby Santiago

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Community based health NGO dubs Philhealth execs’ bonus as insensitive and scandalous

A non-government health group decried Philhealth’s hefty perks and excessive bonuses and allowances and dubbed it as “insensitive and deplorably immoral.” “While thousands of Philhealth members agonize in pain over disallowed reimbursements and limited coverage, their officials, employees and contractors received P1.448 billion in 2012 according to a Commission on Audit report released October 10, 2013 despite a P3.8 billion shortfall in reserve fund requirement ,” said Dr. Eleanor A. Jara, executive director of Council for Health and Development (CHD).

Philhealth retained P115.08 earnings last year which fell P3.8 billion short of the prescribed P118.76 billion fund requirement to ensure viability and sustainability of the National Health Insurance Program.

Citing the exuberant allowances and bonuses as insensitive and deplorably immoral, Dr. Jara said Philhealth “presents a crude disparity between its members and officials.” Dr. Jara argued that while the agency execs enjoy benefits that came from hard-earned member-premiums, the agency covers a mere 30% of a Philhealth member’s hospital expenses. Moreover, Philhealth was said to owe some P2 billion in overdue payments to 900 private hospitals in 2012.

Obviously, Philhealth’s Board of Directors approved self-serving policies that allowed the release of such stupendous amounts without considering its members’ welfare,” Dr. Jara commented.

According to Philhealth’s official website, its Board of Directors consist of DOH Secretary Enrique T. Ona as the chairperson with members Francisco T. Duque III (CSC Chair), Corazon J. Soliman (DSWD Secretary), Alexander A. Padilla (Employer Sector), Alexander A. Ayco (Labor Sector), Jane M.N. Sta. Ana (Filipino Oversseas Workers), Robert G. Vergara (GSIS President and General Manager), Genesis M. Adario (Corporate Secretary), Manuel A. Roxas II (DILG Secretary), Rosalinda D. Baldoz (DOLE Secretary), Juan M. Flavier (Health Care Providers Sector), Francisco Vicente F. Lopez (Self Employed Sector), Emilio S. De Quiros Jr. (SSS President and CEO), and Marlon J. Manuel (NAPC-BS Vice Chairperson).

Each board member was reported to have received P1.2 million each in bonuses alone.

Council for Health and Development calls on every Filipino to demand for the return of such bonus and allowances received by Philhealth officials as stated in the CoA report and use it to finance free health services and medicines in public hospitals.

Council for Health and Development is the national organization of more than 60 community based health programs (CBHP) is celebrating 40 years of CBHPs in the Philippines.##

Eleanor A. Jara, M.D.

Executive Director, Council for Health and Development
0927-9259413 | Telefax: (+632)929-8109

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Health sector to PNoy: We will never PORKget how the pork barrel system squeezed the life out of every single Filipino

Members of the health sector-led Rx: Abolish Pork Barrel System! Movement decried the administration’s attempt to cover-up the terminal condition called graft and corruption that gradually kills the nation despite a “new scheme” on pork barrel fund transfers to line agencies. The group said the move is artificial and a mere Band-Aid solution to appease mass discontent on the issue of PDAF.

Dr. Darby Santiago, the movement’s co-convener said that the measly P3.691 billion allotted from the Legislature and Office of the Vice President (OVP) PDAF Realignment to the Department of Health (DOH), what Malacañang dubs as the new scheme, is a “mere crumb” which cannot even be considered as a “slice from the budget pie.”

The amount, he said, is comparable to “giving a crying child a small candy to appease her anguish.” “What the government refuses to recognize is that the child cries because her basic needs aren’t met and a candy is not enough to meet those needs,” Dr. Santiago lamented.

Meanwhile, the group also slammed DOH Secretary Ona’s statements that the new scheme will make fund acquisition in public hospitals “easier and more equitable for the poor.” However, Dr. Santiago repudiated this by saying the new scheme does NOT totally remove legislators’ discretion by submitting recommendation letters to concerned agencies. “The scheme will still perpetuate patronage politics and graft and corruption,” he added.

Dr. Santiago noted that the current public health system under President Aquino and Sec. Ona “will NEVER be easier and equitable because they are hell bent in privatizing public hospitals in favor of big local and foreign investors” such as the sale of the Philippine Orthopedic Center and 25 other public hospitals. Due to lack of funds, other hospitals also face problems that could permanently halt their services such as the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) which was reported to have been facing ‘eviction’ orders if they will not be able to acquire the 3.7 ha property priced at P1.1 B where the hospital stood for 34 years.

The group said that “giving up PDAF in all its forms is such a herculean task for the government because some government officials are using their positions to amass and protect their wealth.”

In conclusion, Rx: Abolish Pork Barrel System! Movement called for the abolition of the pork barrel system, prosecution and punishment of all conniving congressmen, senators, and other public officials, and re-channel of all pork barrel funds to social services. Rx: Abolish Pork Barrel System! Movement is a loose formation of health professionals, health workers, health science students and people’s health advocates.##


Dr. Darby Santiago
0927-9259413/ (02)929-8109
Co-convener, Rx: Abolish Pork Barrel System! Movement

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pork is bad for people’s health

The health sector denounced today Malacañang’s crass attempts to resurrect the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in a different form. Reacting from information that President Aquino ordered the rechanneling of the legislators’ pork barrel to agencies such as the health, education, social work, and the public works departments, the group said this re-allocation “does not remove Congressmen and Senators’ discretion over the amounts to be released and to which sector it will be given.”

PDAF by any other name and by any other form will remain the bailiwick of corruption and endlessly feed a very dirty patronage politics,” said Dr. Delen dela Paz, co-convener of the health sector’s Rx: Abolish Pork Barrel System! Movement.

The group concluded that the new mechanism is misleading and deceptive. Likewise, the group questioned President Aquino’s moral ascendancy to mouth PDAF abolition when he himself refuses to abolish his own “presidential pork barrel” or the President’s Social Fund (PSF).

The group slammed Malacañang’s argument that the PSF was audited and never misused saying the statements are “utterly pretentious and clearly indicates double standard.” “How can he [President Aquino] stomach such lies? Very recently, the Senate probe revealed that P100 million from the president’s P72.11 billion stimulus funds went to bogus NGOs linked with the pork barrel scam.”

Pork barrel is dangerous to people’s health. Dela Paz cited a research done by Council for Health and Development, an organization of community based health programs in the Philippines, the P10 billion pork barrel scam linked with Janet Napoles could fund:
  • The salary of 16,667 doctors or 33,333 nurses in rural areas for one year.
  • Fund the treatment of 2.5 million Tuberculosis patients.
  • Pay for anti-retroviral treatment of 55,556 HIV/AIDS patients for one year.
  • Treat 1.25 million Dengue patients.
  • Provide vaccines to 12 million babies.
  • Twice the budget for the modernization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center.
“Our call is clear. Abolish the pork barrel system, prosecute all guilty parties including all conniving senators, congressmen, other public officials and bogus NGOs, and allocate pork barrel funds directly to health and other basic social services.”##

Dr. Delen dela Paz
Co-convenor, Rx: Abolish Pork Barrel System! Movement

Friday, August 23, 2013

Health programs from different regions decry DOH’s “No Home Birthing Policy” as mere smokescreen of the sorry state of maternal and neonatal health

(Quezon City, Philippines) NGOs and Community Health Workers from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are outraged by the decentralized implementation of DOH Administrative Order 2008-0029 “Implementing Health Reforms for Rapid Reduction of Maternal and Neonatal Mortality” more popularly known as the “No Home Birthing Policy.” Community Based Health Programs (CBHP) all over the Philippines cited Quezon City, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Bicol, Iloilo, Zamboanga, and CARAGA among others that have local ordinances prohibiting home births. Upon knowing that they gave birth at home, some mothers were even prevented from registering the birth of their newborns.

They said that the policy “narrows public health care” and “gears government health service to privatization and profit.”

In Iloilo, a pregnant mother had to endure 16 hours of grueling rough road travel just to reach the “nearest” birthing facility. The same ordeal is true with the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Bicol, Iloilo, Zamboanga, and CARAGA.

CBHPs pointed out that the government is not ready to accommodate all births in facilities because its health human resources are low and infrastructures are scarce and can only be found in cities, town centers, and provincial centers. For the 42,028 barangays, there are only 17,000 Barangay Health Stations that have very few or no health personnel, lack equipment, medicines and supplies.

They also decried Philhealth’s promise of “free delivery” or “no balance billing” which is just a smokescreen of different charges in the birthing facility/hospital and professional fees. Philhealth only covers a mere fraction of hospital/facility bills and “does not eradicate out-of-pocket expenses” of patients. A midwife who worked for a private lying-in clinic in Metro Manila divulged that on top of Philhealth’s Maternity Care Package (MCP) amounting to P8,000 for normal spontaneous delivery, the facility charges an additional P7,500 for the professional fee of the OB-Gyn doctor or P5,500 as professional fee of the midwife.

They said that based on Philhealth’s Geographic Information System, the MCP covers 539 facilities in 14 regions (there is no available data for Region XI). The CBHPs said that this data translates to 1 MCP facility available to a staggering 78 barangays.

They are campaigning for the recall of the DOH’s “No Home Birthing” policy because this will just increase maternal and neo-natal mortality by prohibiting Community Health Workers and traditional birth attendants or hilot from doing what they have done for decades sans government support -- bridge the gaps in health care delivery by being at the frontline of people’s health.

Community Based Health Programs (CBHP) promote alternative health system, train Community Health Workers, and work for people’s empowerment.

Sixty (60) CBHP members representing different provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are in Quezon City to attend the 3-day 11th General Assembly of Council for Health and Development (CHD) with the theme “Ipagbunyi ang 40 taon ng CBHP! Higit pang palakasin ang CBHPs para sa ibayong paglilingkod sa sambayanan!” (Celebrate the 40 years of CBHP! Further strengthen the CBHPs for greater service to the people!). Council for Health and Development is the national organization of Community Based Health Programs in the Philippines.


Marcelinda Tambalque
Community Health Worker, Traditional Birth Attendant
Nueva Ecija Community Health Workers Association
Carranglan, Nueva Ecija

Grace Cuasay
Registered Midwife, Director of Health Education and Training
Council for Health and Development

Sunday, August 11, 2013

No home Birthing Policy: Higher maternal mortality and neonatal deaths

Manila, Philippines - The government implements “No Home Birthing Policy” as an answer to the soaring number of maternal and neo-natal deaths. It blames the rise in Maternal Mortality Rates to home births unsupervised by skilled health professionals. The policy states that all pregnant women should give birth only in facility-based centers attended by skilled health personnel. In addition, DOH has encouraged doctors, nurses and midwives to put up lying-in centers, facilities and hospitals which become part of their social delivery network.

Midwives, traditional birth attendants (hilots), mothers, and community leaders will hold a protest action in front of DOH Main Gate at Rizal Avenue, Manila on August 12, 2013, Monday, 8:30-10 am.

Grace Cuasay, a registered midwife and director of Health, Education, Training and Services department of the Council for Health Development, said “Birthing facilities are few and very far. Giving birth in a facilty-based center is expensive. This policy is not a solution, and on the contrary endangers the lives of women and their babies.

There is no government infrastructure and health budget to improve ill-equipped barangay health stations and hire additional government health personnel. According to DOH 2011 data, of 41,000 barangays, only 17,000 have barangay health stations. There is only one midwife for 13,160 population, one nurse for 37,998 population and one doctor for 67,987 population . Cuasay cited that the Basic Emergency Obstetric Newborn Care (BEmONC) facility in Iloilo serves four to five barangays. Pregnant women have to travel three days to reach this birthing station. The case is worse In the Lumad areas of Agusan del Sur where there is no barangay health station. Lina Tambalque , a community health worker from CBHP-Nueva Ecija, also said that midwives are not allowed to deliver babies at home. A mother had to rent a jeep and cross a flooded river to get to the nearest birthing station. The mother and her child died before reaching their destination. In Metro Manila, reports cited by a Manila newspaper stated that at least 14 babies were delivered at LRT-1 from 2010 to 2012. Eight were delivered at the station platform and six inside the moving train. The pregnant mothers were on the way to Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital or Philippine General Hospital to give birth.

Women could not afford birthing facilities. Before, home birthing with a midwife costs only a few hundreds of pesos which mothers pay in installment or even in kind through goods like rice, fruits, vegetables or chicken. With the new policy, they have to pay P2,500 to P3,500 in to give birth in barangay health stations or lying-in centers. Some mothers may have PhilHealth cards but the card is rendered useless since most barangay health stations are not PhilHealth accredited. In government or private hospitals and lying-in centers, PhilHealth maternity care package for normal delivery in hospitals is P6,500 to P8,000. But this covers only 30 to 50 percent of expense, forcing out of pocket expenses. In addition, a huge chunk of the population living in far-flung barrios are not PhilHealth members.

According to Cuasay, a significant decrease in maternal mortality rate is impossible to achieve in a reactive public health care system that loyally subscribes to foreign-dictated maternal and child health programs like the “No Home Birthing Policy.” The policy further diminishes the public health care system while paving the way for increased private business in health. In conclusion, Cuasay called on the government to provide more doctors, nurses and midwives in communities. She called on the government to rescind the “No Home Birthing Policy” and to allocate 5% of the gross domestic product or P575B to health to be able to strengthen the public health care system.##

Reference :
Grace Cuasay
Director of Health, Education, Training and Services
Council for Health and Development
Contact no: 0927 925 9413

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Protests against Privatization of Government Hospitals

Health workers and community residents held a protest action in front of the Department of Health in Manila during the groundbreaking ceremony of the “new” Fabella Hospital on June 25, 2013. Fabella, Jose Reyes, and San Lazaro Hospitals are to be “modernized” under the public private partnership and corporatization projects of the government.

Pres. Benigno Aquino III who was the guest of the groundbreaking ceremony praised the Department of Health for its privatization measure. Meanwhile, protesters who rallied outside the DOH compound raised concerns on the rising costs of health services in public hospitals and the accessibility of health services for poor patients.

“We believe it is the responsibility of the government to improve, develop and modernize public hospitals and public services health services. This should serve the people’s interest, not the interests of profit-oriented private investors,” said Leopoldo Margallo, a nurse at the San Lazaro Hospital.

According to the Alliance of Health Workers, six bidders participated in the June 11 public bidding for the construction of the new Fabella Hospital. Fabella, a 700-bed hospital in its current location, will be transformed in a LRT facillity. The new Fabella hospital at the DOH compound is intended only for 400 patients.

In related developments, the Philippine Orthopedic Hospital in Quezon City is also being sold to two bidders namely Mega Wide Construction and World City Corporation. Concerned health workers, health professionals and community residents also staged protest action on June 24, 2015 to stop the sale of this government hospital . (#)