June 18, 2024

The Insider News

Direct from the source

Quimbo proposes a congressional committee to fix ailing health care system 

MARIKINA Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo is proposing the creation of a joint committee from the Senate and the House of Representatives to evaluate and help find a targeted solution to the nation’s ailing health care system.

In a resolution filed on Nov 8, Quimbo underscored the need to urgently address the dire state of the Philippine health care system, characterized by “poor health outcomes, lack of access to quality care and inefficient allocation of resources.”

The committee that Quimbo is pushing will be responsible for the thorough review, assessment and evaluation of the performance of the offices  involved in providing access and financing of health care and will serve as the first step toward a potential overhaul of the system. 

Under Quimbo’s proposal, five senators and five representatives will compromise the joint committee, which will be co-chaired by the chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography and the House chair of the Committee on Health.

Quimbo lamented the inequities and inefficiencies that continue to plague the health care system, even with the implementation of landmark health care reform pieces in the last three decades. These include the creation of a National Health Insurance Program (RA 7875), the devolution of health care to local governments (RA 7160), the promotion of the use of generic drugs (RA 6675), and the universality in PhilHealth coverage (RA 11223), along with other reform initiatives such as the Department of Health’s “Health Sector Reform Agenda”, the “FOURmula One (F!)” and the F1 Plus for health, Kalusugang Pangkalahatan.”

She said the “shortage in medical personnel, lack of capacity in hospital space, lack of focus on preventive care, unsuccessful efforts to address HIV cases, adolescent pregnancy and infant mortality rate,” all point to a poor health care system of the country. 

She added: “Almost half of patients covered by PhilHealth pay for their medical expenses out-of-pocket and that any reimbursements by PhilHealth are insufficient to cover hospital expenses.”

The representative from the second district of Marikina also shared alarming statistics to prove her point, saying that current trends show that four out of 10 registered deaths occur outside the care of a medical professional and that almost 93% of Filipinos choose to self-medicate instead of seeking professional help when they are sick. 

The numbers suggest, Quimbo said, the lack of access to a medical professional even in the face of fatal medical conditions.  

Without a much-needed reform, Quimbo warned that the country is facing a resurgence of HIV infections, continue to fail in the treatment of tuberculosis, a rise in the number of deaths of children from malnutrition and a continuing failure to meet targets in efforts to address infant mortality rate and teen pregnancy.  The Philippines currently lags behind in meeting many of the previously set performance targets on Sustainable Development Growth (SDG), which are specific to good health and well-being.

Compounding the health care crisis, according to Quimbo, is the shortage of doctors and nurses that the Philippines continues to lose to better opportunities abroad.  In 2021 alone, some 316,000 nurses went overseas to practice their profession. 

Quimbo estimates that at this rate, it will take approximately 12 years to close the nurses-to-population supply-to-demand gap.  The situation is even more problematic for physicians, in which the time to close the current gap can take up to 23 years.

The resolution also pointed to the alleged failure of PhilHealth, the country’s national health insurance provider, to effectively perform its mandate as another significant factor aggravating the problems in the health care system.  

Quimbo said that despite a significant surplus in PhilHealth’s resources, members consistently complained of disproportionate amounts in reimbursements in hospitalization costs and failure to pay or long delays in payments.

“Despite its noble intent, PhilHealth is yet to meet its targets,” she said, further stating that its “failures and doubts on its readiness warrant a reassessment and a review of its implementation strategies.”

Similarly, she explained that the devolution of the health care system, which has since exposed the lack of capacity in local government units to finance devolved health care systems, also calls for a closer look at how certain health programs are being implemented or possibly even a revisit of the policies behind them.

Quimbo emphasized the need to come up with a more timely approach to the current and quickly evolving health care situation.  In addition to expanding access and financing, she said efforts should also be stepped up in data collection and health information sharing system, which she deemed to be crucial in healthcare delivery.

“There  is a pressing need for an organized and contemporary approach to address the evolving challenges faced by the health care sector, particularly in light of the current times,” Quimbo pointed out in her resolution.