Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed the need to address the high cost of highly specialized medical procedures, such as liver transplant in the country.
Discussing the need in a meeting with key government officials and private healthcare practitioners on Wednesday, the Senator encouraged the officials to provide more training to healthcare professionals and improve the coordination among concerned health agencies and private health institutions to address the issue.
The said meeting was attended by officials from various government agencies, such as the Department of Health (DOH); Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA); the Presidential Management Staff (PMS); officers from different hospitals, including The Medical City Hospital, Makati Medical Center, Philippine Children’s Medical Center and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute; and officials of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce.
In the meeting, issues such as unavailability of highly specialized medical equipment, lack of training for liver transplantation medical personnel, and expensive medicines were identified as the main reasons contributing to the high cost of liver transplant procedure in the country.
This problem leaves affected patients with no choice but to obtain treatment in countries where it is cheaper to undergo medical operations such as India.
Go cited the cases of two babies with biliary atresia, Eren Arabella Crisologo and Dionifer Zephaniah Itao, who were brought to India for treatment through the help of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Senator.
“Sina baby Eren at Dionifer, tinulungan pa namin ng Pangulo na madala sa India para mapagamot ang sakit nilang biliary atresia. Sa kasamaang palad, nagkaroon ng kumplikasyon si baby Eren kaya hindi na-survive ang operasyon,” Go recounted during the meeting.
Biliary atresia is a rare condition where the bile duct is blocked, thus damaging the liver. Once the liver fails, a transplant is necessary. The disease only affects infants.
“Kung mayroon sana tayo dito sa Pilipinas na mga kailangang equipment, mas maraming well-trained specialists at mas murang operasyon, hindi na sana kailangan magpagamot pa sa ibang bansa ang mga pasyenteng ito,” Go said stressing the need for improved access to quality healthcare services in the country especially for indigent patients.
To address the problem of expensive liver transplant operation, Go seeks to retool and provide further trainings to liver transplantation medical personnel in the country.
“Gusto namin, kasama ang ating doctors, na ipa-train sila. Susuporta ang iba’t ibang government agencies,” Go said as he reiterated his call for government to invest in enhancing the capabilities of healthcare professionals as part of the efforts in improving the quality of the country’s healthcare services.
Go also expressed his desire to change the mindset of some patients about local doctors and the quality of liver transplant procedure in the country.
“Nais natin na ang mga pasyente ay magtiwala po sa kakayahan ng ating mga doktor. Gusto natin sabihin sa kanila na hindi na nila kailangan pumunta ng ibang bansa para sa liver transplant. Magtiwala sila sa ating local doctors,” the Senator said.
“’Yun po ang objective natin dito, as soon as possible sana. Sana ay maging at par tayo sa ibang bansa, at mag-gain ng trust ang parents ng mga pasyente sa kakayahan ng ating doctors dito,” he added.
Another issue raised during the meeting is the need to streamline the assistance provided by government agencies and non-government organizations and foundations to patients in need.
Known to be at the forefront of promoting seamless and efficient delivery of government services to Filipinos, Go has been instrumental in the conceptualization of the government’s Malasakit Center program.
Malasakit Centers are a one-stop shop for medical financial assistance from different government agencies, such as the DOH, Department of Social Welfare and Development, PhilHealth and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. There are 41 Malasakit Centers currently in operation across the country.
“Prayoridad ko ang kalusugan ng mga tao dahil ito ang madalas na hinihingi na tulong sa gobyerno ng mga ordinaryong Pilipino. Kaya nangako po ako sa sarili ko na tutulungan ko ang Duterte administration upang lubusang matugunan ang mga ganitong sitwasyon,” Go said in his recent interviews.
To address these concerns, the Senator filed last month several proposed measures including the institutionalization of the Malasakit Center program, the improvement of Philippine nursing education, expanding the coverage of the Mandatory Basic Immunization Program, and the increase of the salary of public health care professionals.