Privatization of the health care system in the country continues to take lives, with no less than an impoverished Nobel Laureate dying without receiving needed medical aid.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Progressive groups said the death of American chemist and Nobel Laureate Richard Heck who was denied admission in a private hospital shows glaring proof of “a profit-driven health care system and government neglect in the Philippines.”
Heck, 84, died on Oct. 9 in a public hospital, where he was brought after being denied admission in a private health care facility where he had unpaid bills. Heck was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry along with two Japanese chemists in 2010. He retired and had lived in Quezon City in 2006, with his Filipina wife Soccoro, who died in 2012.
“Heck was a victim of a profit-driven health care system and government neglect in the Philippines,” said Feny Cosico, secretary general of the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham).
Heck has survived prostate cancer and has been taking maintenance for diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and slight dementia. Cosico said Heck has been in and out of the hospital for pneumonia since 2013 which sucked out all his remaining fortunes. He was severely vomiting when he was rushed to the private hospital which refused to admit him.
“It is very ironic that Heck’s research has been used to advance medical breakthroughs aiming to save millions of lives, yet he died not receiving treatment,” she said.
Worst place to die
Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Emmi de Jesus said Heck’s tragic death belies President Aquino’s “straight path,” as the country was even included among “The worst places to die,” in the 2015 Quality of Death Index study.
The commissioned study made by The Economist for the Lien Foundation, ranked the quality of palliative care in 80 countries, in which the Philippines ranked 78th.
De Jesus said Heck’s death puts to shame the P128 billion ($2.78) health budget for 2016, which health sector groups say is “misallocated.”
“Like in the past years’ budgets, the biggest allotments are allocated to Philippine Health Insurance Incorporation (PhilHealth) and Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), which do not address the poor patients’ health needs,” said De Jesus.
“If a person of Heck’s stature with his important contributions to technology that ease society’s burdens cannot seek decent emergency or even hospice care here, how can our millions of poor Filipinos expect quality treatment?” De Jesus asked.
According to Agham’s computation, in public hospitals, Philhealth only covers an average of 27 per cent of the cost of expenses, while patients shoulder the rest.
The average cost of confinement in a public health facility is 43 times larger than the minimum wage, while private facilities cost 66 times, the group said.
Cosico said the Nobel laureate Heck should have been treated more humanely, “in gratitude for his role in the field of medical science.”