Robredo: COVID-19 unmasks 'systemic ills' in healthcare system

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 12 2022 07:15 PM

Vice President Leni Robredo interacts with volunteers during the OVP’s Swab cab at the Ina ng Lupang Pangako Parish in Payatas B, Quezon City on Wednesday, January 12, 2022. OVP handout
Vice President Leni Robredo interacts with volunteers during the OVP’s Swab cab at the Ina ng Lupang Pangako Parish in Payatas B, Quezon City on Wednesday, January 12, 2022. OVP handout


MANILA — The COVID-19 pandemic exposed "systemic ills" in the Philippine healthcare system, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Wednesday, adding that accessibility and affordability of medical services remain a problem as the country fights another wave of coronavirus infections.

"Parang 'yung pandemic exposed the systemic ills in our healthcare system... Masyado tayong naging complacent in the past na noong nagkaroon ng pandemic, doon tayo talaga–'yong lahat ng pagpapabaya natin over the years naramdaman natin ngayon," Robredo said in a One News interview. 

(The pandemic seems to have exposed the systemic ills in our healthcare system. We were too complacent in the past, and when the pandemic struck, we are now feeling all our neglect over the years.)

She said the "number one lesson" the pandemic brought is the need to fix the "entire" healthcare system, and not just hospitals or medical workers.

"'Yong number one na problema talaga, access. Pangalawang problema 'yung affordability," Robredo said. 

(The number one problem is really access. The second problem is affordability.)

"Whether we like it or not, we have to accept the fact na mahirap talaga magkasakit 'pag mahirap ka. Mahirap magkasakit 'pag mahirap ka kasi hindi accessible 'yung lahat, ‘yung klase ng healthcare na accessible sa mga may pera. Ito talaga, kailangan natin 'tong asikasuhin," she said. 

(We have to accept the fact that it's a burden to get sick if you are poor. The kind of healthcare accessible to the rich is not accessible to you. This is what we need to fix.) 

She said while the passage of the Universal Healthcare Law was a good first step to fix this, the measure's operationalization is too slow. 

"Sa akin, ayusin sana 'yung pag-roll out ng Universal Healthcare Law. 'Yung budget for health, dagdagan kasi sobrang liit ng budget natin for health," Robredo said. 

(I hope the rollout of the Universal Healthcare Law will be fixed. The budget for health should be raised because it is too small.) 

"'Yong 2021 budget, saka 2022 budget, prinepare 'yun, pandemic na. Pero 'pag tiningnan natin 'yung budget, hindi pa din siya pandemic budget... Parang sa ibang facets ng operation ng pamahalaan, parang business as usual pa din. Tapos parang nakahiwalay lang 'yung healthcare budget na hindi talaga enough," she added.

(The 2021 and 2022 budgets were prepared during the pandemic. But these were still not pandemic budgets. Some facets of government operation still appear to be business as usual. And the healthcare budget is separate and not enough.)

She said government should fix medical accessibility by making sure that each province would have a hospital with sufficient equipment and manpower so that patients would not be forced to go to the capital. 

Robredo urged authorities to strengthen community-based access to the prevention of illness.

"'Yung PhilHealth natin, kailangan natin ayusin. 'Yung remuneration ng ating mga healthcare workers, kailangan nating ayusin," she continued. 

(We need to fix our PhilHealth. We need to fix the remuneration of our healthcare workers.)

"'Yung problema natin ngayon, kahit may mga kama pa sa ospital, wala lang– wala na tayong workers. We are losing our workers kasi hindi naman natin sila ma-prevent... to seek greener pastures kasi may mga pamilya silang binubuhay," she said. 

(Our problem now is even though there are still hospital beds, we do not have workers. We are losing our workers because we cannot prevent them from seeking greener pastures, given they also have families they need to support.)

Asked if she would push for a stipend for health workers to discourage them from pursuing jobs abroad, Robredo said, "Possible siya, pero hindi siya enough."

"Whether may pandemic o walang pandemic, 'pag tiningnan mo lang 'yung entry level salary ng ating nurses compared to our, sabihin natin ASEAN neighbors, ang layo," she said. 

(It is possible but it is not enough. Whether there is a pandemic or not, if you look at the entry level salary of our nurses compared to our, say, ASEAN neighbors, it is far.)

"Kailangan natin ayusin 'yung pinaka-structure ng hindi lang suweldo, pero lahat na benefits for our healthcare workers," added the Vice President. 

(We need to fix the structure not just of the salary, but all the benefits for our healthcare workers.) 

Robredo is seeking the presidency this year.

Watch more on iWantTFC