Sep 23, 2020

Medical Care in Puerto Princesa

My musings on medical care started with a friend whose husband is in a health crisis. His care is expensive and at this point seems very unsatisfactory – but a friend of a friend is offering sort of a magic bullet, a miracle drug. The catch? It’s very expensive and has to be hand carried from Manila. And of course most doctors think it is nuts. I’m furious at the very thought that these ‘friends of friends’ may be trying to rip off this couple when they are under so much stress. But of course that isn’t the only direction you can follow here. While it is true that medicine is not a very exact science, help and guidance and true information could and should be so much easier for ordinary people, simple people who are not doctors, to obtain.

And about the same time as this thought chain started, I began noticing that there are many nice new things in Puerto these days. Ate lunch in McCoys in SM – lovely, with a terrace and a sea view! I was sent to Padre Pio to see a particular doctor and found that so congenial! My friend Bee who runs the Puerto EEL website keeps coming up with new restaurant suggestions and food outlets. Abanico is now a pleasure to drive over and other roads are looking good.

So why isn’t there more money, both public and private, devoted to good medical facilities and care? This, after all, is a very basic need!

This is such a major problem: where would one even begin? For me, I would start at the very most basic level, the medicine for everyone level, skipping the high tech and sophisticated ideas for medical progress. Maybe some day!!

We need good reproductive health care, across communities, across classes. All barangays and communities should have health centers with lying in facilities and 24 hour midwife care. These centers should be able to distribute free contraceptives and some health education. And they should have doctors on call for emergencies. I know this can be done because ten years ago my daughter and I started an NGO that does this kind of health care in selected communities (although no lying in centers yet), and it is indeed an overwhelming need. And women who are offered these services respond very well.

Such facilities could also include a well baby clinic, even one day a week, so that parents could bring in small children for general check ups without going all the way down town and spending the day waiting to see someone.

(Quick aside: I would like to applaud City Health services for animal bites. These seem to work very well.)

And then of course there is the need for better general care. My major wish here is that we could decongest hospital corridors and waiting rooms and cut down waiting times so that “going to the doctor” would seem like a feasible idea even before one reaches the crisis stage. We have some very good doctors, and they are overwhelmed by the number of patients who want to see them. I guess we just need many more doctors! And it would be helpful if specialists, at least, worked by appointment!

My experience in Padre Pio suggested to me that it would be very nice to have a senior clinic, a place where seniors could wait more comfortably (and for less time) in comfortable chairs, with free drinking water available. Many clinics do practice some sort of senior priority, but few places are very welcoming.

Emergency care too needs to be more available to everyone. (Second aside: the city ambulance service is great!). ERs in all hospitals need more capacity – and ER centers are needed further from the city.

And then of course NO medical care should be on a pay-as-you-go basis!

I realize these are rather extravagant proposals. Nevertheless it seems wiser (and considerably more humane) to concentrate on expanding basic services to all rather than more technical, complicated, and expensive services for the very few.

And it is good to keep our aims front and center even if they seem unrealistic!

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