Death greets Mang Semporiano

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Semporiano Bello, 72, died last January 11 without his relatives knowing what struck him.

Semporiano’s son, Jun, said his father, a farmer in the impoverished town of Lope de Vega in Northern Samar, one day complained of severe stomach pain.

But since it would take a three-hour walk just to reach the place where they could get a ride to the hospital, a hospital check-up was not an immediate option.

Semporiano’s village, Gebonawan, has a health center. However, it is ill-equipped and its designated nurse visits only a few times a month.

In a vain attempt to ease his father’s pain, Jun just gave Semporiano Mefenamic acid. Two days later, Semporiano died.

"Kung meron lang sana mga kagamitan, mga nurse, siguro 'yung tatay ko baka buhay pa ngayon," said Jun.

Semporiano embodies the Filipino who has no access to proper medical care, as some remote areas in the country still have no proper medical facilities that are manned with healthcare professionals.

Death greets Mang Semporiano 1

According to the Field Health Information System 2013 Annual Report, there are 2,927 doctors in the public sector as of 2013, resulting in a 1:33,485 doctor-to-patient ratio.

This is below the one doctor per 20,000 patients benchmark set by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in its 2014 Supply-Side Assessment and the 1:10,000 doctor-to-patient ratio set by the World Health Organization.

The average time of travel to the hospital in the Philippines is 34 minutes. But in poorer regions such as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, it takes 61 minutes to go to the hospital; in CAR, 50 minutes; in Davao, 48 minutes; in Cagayan Valley, 47 minutes; and in Central Visayas, 45 minutes.

Three out of every five hospitals in the country are privately owned. Out of the total 1,970 hospitals, only 783 are government-owned.

About 51 percent of the poorest sector go to a barangay health station (BHS) to seek medical advice or treatment. On the other hand, 46 percent of those in the wealthiest and 31 percent of the upper middle class go to a private hospital or clinic.

But even access to BHS is limited. Data from the National Health Facility Registry of the Department of Health show there is only one BHS for every two barangays, far from the ideal one BHS per village recommended by the United Nations-Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.