Tuesday, April 08, 2008

HEAD Slams DOH Doublespeak on Kidney Transplants and Medical Tourism

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD

2/F Doña Anita Bldg, 284 E. Rodriguez Ave., Quezon City
Telefax: (02) 725 4760 Email: headphil@gmail.com

Media Release

07 April 2008

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) today condemned the doublespeak of the Department of Health, which declared in its recent administrative order that "kidney transplantation is not part of medical tourism".

HEAD warned that such statements are meant to mislead the public and belie government's sincerity in putting an end to the illegal trade of kidneys and other human organs.

"Declaring that kidney transplantation is not part of medical tourism does not mean that the gov't will not partake of this very lucrative practice. It does not mean that gov't will stop promoting this or stop bringing in foreign medical tourists for kidney transplants." according to Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos, HEAD secretary-general.

"This kind of duplicity has made the proliferation of the illegal kidney trade almost synonymous with the boom in kidney transplantation in the country. Once again, gov't is saying something but is doing the exact opposite."

HEAD notes that some measures being adopted by the DOH on kidney transplantation involving foreigners have been previously articulated by Health Undersecretary Jade del Mundo as recommendations made by groups that are actually bringing in foreigner medical tourists.

This includes the proposal where a foreign medical tourist who wants to undergo kidney transplant here will have to subsidize the transplant of an indigent Filipino. Another proposal is the increase in the cap of kidney transplantations allocated to foreigners, from 10% to 20%. Not surprisingly, Usec. del Mundo is the health department's lead promoter of medical tourism.

HEAD also questioned the central role of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) in the promotion of medical tourism. NKTI accounts for around 50% of all kidney transplantations in the country, which has made it one of the most profitable state-run hospitals in the last few years.

In the grand launch of Philippine medical tourism at the Philippine International Convention Center last November 2006, NKTI was a sponsor. "If kidney transplantation is really outside the purview of medical tourism, then why is NKTI playing a very active and prominent role in medical tourism?" asked Dr. Nisperos. Gov't already earned some $350M from medical tourism, meriting it the moniker of "the country's quiet moneymaker", and hopes to get at least $1B in the next 5 years.

There has been a marked rise in kidney transplantations done in the country, from 307 in 2002 to 470 in 2004 and to 690 in 2006 (data from the Philippine Renal Disease Registry). There has also been a steady rise in living, non-related donors (LNRDs), from 12% in 2002 to 68% in 2006, with a concomitant rise in foreign recipients. This has been going on under the nose of the DOH amid the various exposés of outright kidney sales.

Now, because of growing national and international condemnation of the thriving illegal kidney trade in the country, the DOH hopes to distance kidney transplantation from medical tourism. Dr. Nisperos calls this "official gov't schizophrenia" that is "characteristic of the Arroyo administration".

"The Arroyo gov't will always remain tentative as to how it will solve or stop the illegal trafficking of kidneys and other organs, even as it involves public, state-run hospitals like NKTI, in medical tourism. Its overarching health policy is to make health care a profitable business venture, at the expense of basic health services for ordinary Filipinos."

"The DOH will not do anything that will contradict this policy. So for as long as kidney transplantation is in demand and very lucrative, it will be offered to foreign medical tourist, officially or unofficially." ####


Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos

Secretary-General, 0916 214 5724

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera

Deputy Secretary-General, 0920 460 3712

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