FORMER SEN. EDGARDO J. ANGARA
Sen. Angara was the longest serving senator in the post-EDSA Senate. Described by the late President Corazon Aquino as “the face of decent Philippine politics abroad,” he is also considered by many as the father of healthcare for authoring the National Health Insurance Act (PhilHealth) and the Senior Citizens Act, among the many landmark laws he has authored.
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Doctors are held to high and exacting standards of conduct. This is the main reason why a physician is highly regarded in the Philippines, as it is in the rest of the world.
Their high standing is bolstered by the Hippocratic Oath, which calls on physicians to use their power to help the sick to the best of their abilities and judgment, “never with the intention of doing harm or injury;” to abstain from harming or wrongdoing any man; and to not give “fatal draught” (or medicine/drugs) to anyone if asked—among others.
There is also the Philippine Medical Association’s Code of Ethics, emphasizing that a doctor is a “friend of mankind” and must serve people irrespective of race, age, disease, disability, gender, sexual orientation, social standing, creed or political affiliation. According to the Code, a doctor’s highest priority should be the health of his patients. Financial reward is but a secondary factor.
These are the main pillars upon which the entire medical profession stands. They also provide the benchmarks by which society measures doctors, nurses, and hospital physician’s performance.
Do our physicians adhere to the Hippocratic Oath and the Code of Ethics or do health professionals follow a de facto code of silence or omerta, when it comes to issues pertaining to fellow doctors or the profession itself?
In June 2017, Reuters released a report alleging that hospitals were unwittingly being used to hide drug war killings. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) released an advertisement in 2014 showing a physician, earning more than a million pesos a year, had only paid P7,000 in taxes. On the other hand, a public school teacher, who earned roughly P850,000, paid more than P220,000 or 30 times bigger than what the physician paid.
When it comes to hospitals, are they equipped with the necessary state of the art facilities to diagnose and cure illness? And promote the well-being of the patient? Or are they operated more as profit centers, rather than places of care and succor?
This year, (former) Health Secretary Ubial said that there was a shortfall of roughly 5,200 rural health units (RHUs) and barangay health centers, and a backlog of 45,000 hospital beds.
To reach that number of beds and achieve a ratio of one bed for every 800 people, Secretary Ubial estimated that 1,000 more public and private hospitals need be built. Such lack of care facilities, not to mention personnel, is among the main reasons so many Filipinos die—roughly 6 out of 10—without ever seeing a doctor or a health professional.
Under these circumstances, the right to health is quite illusory. In this age of anxiety, the medical profession and the houses of health—hospitals, rural health units (RHUs), and barangay health centers—should be the ultimate sanctuary for those seeking succor from sickness, ailments, and even mental anguish.
Ironically, our time is also a great age of medical discovery and exploration.
Breakthroughs in cancer treatment and new research tools are coming up to lick the number one killer in the world. Breakthroughs in brain cell studies offer the bright hope of overcoming age-related diseases like Alzheimers and Dementia. Breakthroughs in neuroscience may well halt the rising addiction in the world. And many more exploration of brain cells lead to exciting discoveries of new therapies and treatments.