Sunday, May 15, 2011

Aquino’s ‘universal health care’ a sham — health workers


Published on May 12, 201

MANILA— “Other people including graduates of ‘mere four-year-courses’ are earning higher salaries than me,” said a trained surgeon working for years now at a district hospital in a province north of Manila. He said that lack of doctors in their hospital has also forced him to work on “all kinds of cases and not just on an operating table.” Today, he admitted that he is applying for a job abroad. As a surgeon, he thought his career is also in danger here as a new regulation is “being cooked up” by the PRC (Professional Regulations Commission) in Manila requiring people like him to become member of a certain society of surgeons first, before he can renew his license.

Still, this doctor went to Manila and braved the scorching summer heat to join his colleagues from different hospitals and practices in commemorating the National Health Workers’ Day last May 7. The Health Workers’ Day main program peaked at high noon at the Mendiola Bridge.

Almost a year into Aquino’s presidency, health workers complained they “still suffer from low salaries, inadequate benefits and understaffing,” a plight some of them had thought would change under President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. In his election campaign, Aquino was reputedly the only candidate who had promised to take care of public health. But today, a year into his presidency, a bigger allocation of the public purse has been going to militarization and debt servicing rather than public services such as health, said the health workers’ groups.

(Photo by Marya Salamat /
To finance health, Aquino increasingly turns to PPPs (public-private partnerships), which, the health workers’ groups said, are treating health services as “profitable” ventures rather than public services. They said the PPPs make health services available but costly to average Filipinos.

An elderly public hospital employee who went on leave to join her fellow health workers in their nationwide protest told they had “really believed things would be different with Aquino. But here we are again,” she said, “asking for the same things.”

In commemorating the National Health Workers’ Day last May 7, health workers held a protest caravan from the Lung Center of the Philippines, early morning, stopped for a brief program in front of the University of Sto.Tomas in España, then proceeded by midday to their main program at the Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang. The health workers are demanding a salary increase of P6,000 ($139.75) per month. The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) said they conducted the Health Workers Day protest also to “continue the fight for jobs, rights and health of the people.”

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