The national government subsidizes only 10 to 12 percent of NKTI’s operations.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Sitting on a wheelchair, Anabec Oliva, 47, could not contain her tears as she listened to fellow dialysis patients decrying the removal of the 80-percent discount for the poor, Feb. 12.
Oliva, whose husband works as a part-time driver for a junk shop, said her family could barely sustain her treatment. Since January, they have to shell out P550 ($11) for every hemodialysis session and P951 ($20) more for epoetin injection. At times, they have to pay for the dialyzer, the filter used to clean the blood, amounting to P1,500 ($31).
Hemodialysis is the most common treatment for patients with chronic kidney failure. A patient’s blood is allowed to flow, a few ounces at a time, through a special filter that removes wastes and extra fluids. The clean blood is then returned to the body. Dialysis only provides about 15 percent of kidney function. Experts say it is enough to sustain life, but needs to be performed regularly, and for life.
Oliva said that since the NKTI’s imposition of fees for service patients, her children would queue for many hours to solicit financial support from politicians and other government agencies. “Minsan, gabi pa lang nakapila na sila at walang pagkain,” (There are times they would start queuing the night before and even without food) she said, glancing at her 17-year-old daughter Lorie Anne.
Oliva said there are times when she would miss the epoetin injection, which should be given after every dialysis. “Tinitiis ko na lang,” (I bear the pain) she told Bulatlat, showing her bloated belly and legs.
From 80 percent, the NKTI has reduced the discount to 20 percent for service patients. Members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) also need to co-pay P550 as the package rate was reduced from P4,500 ($95) to only P2,600 ($55) per dialysis session.
Marivi Toledo, external coordinator of the Hemodialysis Patients’ Organization (HPO) said NKTI officials told them that the new policy is meant to shift the mode of hemodialysis patients’ treatment to peritoneal dialysis or kidney transplant. Toledo said both options are burdensome for the poor.
A single kidney transplant can cost up to P1 million ($21,000). On top of that, a patient who underwent kidney transplant would have to spend P30,000 ($630) every month for maintenance medicines.
Peritoneal dialysis, meanwhile, is only offered in NKTI and will pose accessibility problems for patients living outside the Metro, Toledo said.
Toledo said the HPO appealed several times to NKTI officials but in vain. Toledo said Dr. Romina Danguilan, chairperson of the Department of Adult Nephrology, told the HPO that the NKTI has to impose fees or the hospital will lose money.
The national government subsidizes only 10 to 12 percent of NKTI’s operations. In 2014, while the NKTI had P1.9 billion ($40 million) net hospital fees, the personnel services, maintenance and operating expenses and other financial expenses had been deducted from the collected fees. That year, the national government subsidy was only P230 million ($4.8 million).
“Ang NKTI na dapat ay isang ospital ng gobyerno ay pinatatakbo bilang isang pribadong ospital na ang intensyon ay kumita nang malaki,” (The NKTI is supposedly a government hospital but is being run like a private hospital with the intention to earn huge profits.) Toledo said.
The HPO called on the government to reinstitute the 80-percent discount on hospital fees for service patients; remove the co-pay in the 90-day Philhealth hemodialysis package; and, increase direct government support for patients in public hospitals.
Dialysis patients ended their protest by singing their own version of “Pusong Bato” (Heart of Stone), which they dedicated to NKTI officials.