Pinoys urged to consult doctors as noncommunicable diseases remain as leading cause of death

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2021 04:37 PM | Updated as of Nov 30 2021 10:20 PM

Health workers attend to non-COVID-19 patients at the triage area of the Ospital ng Tondo placed along Abad Santos avenue in Manila on August 26, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Health workers attend to non-COVID-19 patients at the triage area of the Ospital ng Tondo placed along Abad Santos avenue in Manila on August 26, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Filipinos are urged to consult their doctors online or in-person as the top causes of death in the country remain to be noncommunicable diseases, doctors said Tuesday.

These illnesses include heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, and hypertension, said Dr. Helen Ong-Garcia, cardiologist at St. Luke’s Bonifacio Global City.

In 2020, some 100,000 Filipinos died of heart disease and 60,000 of cancer, according to Kumusta Dok, an initiative that aims to reconnect patients with their doctors following the pandemic.

“With the safety measures health care professionals have been putting in place, immediate and regular consultations are possible even though COVID-19 is still around. The best time to see their doctor is now," said Richard Lirio, corporate secretary of the Private Hospitals Association Philippines (PHAPI).

Patients do not seek consultation because they fear contracting COVID-19, prefer to depend on information online, have limited knowledge about technology to use telemedicine, or are uncertain when to seek consult, said Leyden Florido, representative from the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations.

"They don’t seek consultation unless they're feeling any pain... They have limited access to telehealth because maybe they don't know how to use it. Depende 'yan sa online information," she said during a virtual briefing.

"Pandemic made us take several steps back. Patients are afraid to seek consult because of the fact they don’t want to be infected by COVID," Ong-Garcia said.

PHAPI had launched a "remote infection prevention and control self-assessment for hospitals" to help medical facilities adapt to the new normal, according to Lirio.

Some 29 hospitals voluntarily participated, of which the assessment of 13 hospitals has been completed, he said.

Medical facilities had set up separate waiting areas exclusively for
non-COVID patients, mandatory screening for COVID-19 symptoms and completion of declaration form prior to entering hospitals, and frequent sanitation of high contact areas such as door handles, Lirio added.

Patients are also hesitant to go to hospitals when their symptoms match with COVID-19, said Dr. Patrick Moral, a pulmonologist at the UST Hospital.

These include those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems.

"Bumaba ang cases (cases declined) because they were at home and there wasn't any pollution, there weren’t cars so much," he said.

Patients could consult their doctors through telemedicine, Moral said. They are also urged to verify the information they read online, Moral added as he stressed the need for patients to give doctors their family's medical history.

"We need to get people back to taking charge of their health, especially those with these serious non-communicable diseases before they get worse. Prevention is always better than cure," Florido said.

"This is especially true during the pandemic. Timely management of medical conditions will lessen the potential for these diseases to worsen to the point of becoming an emergency. This is one way of alleviating our emergency services that attend to both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.”

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