Whenever June comes along, my thoughts invariably turn to my son Migi.
Migi was with us only for some four years. He went back to his real home 17 years ago on June 3, 1998. The passage of time does not diminish the love, but finding meaning in his early leaving has helped numb the pain of losing a child.
Loss, I’ve always said, can be a transformative experience if you’re brave enough to accept and embrace the pain and all the hills and valleys that come with the grief experience. It’s never time alone that heals the wound, but rather what you do with the time that heals it.
Even before I started working in the healthcare industry, I was exposed to the ins and outs of hospitals because Migi required frequent checkups and close monitoring. And these were not private hospitals where we spent many hours in, but government hospitals where the best doctors for his condition were based.
For his checkups with esteemed pediatric cardiologist Egay Ortiz, it was the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) which became our second home in 1994-98. The PCMC is still the best in specialized pediatric care. It has been serving thousands of children from all social classes.
This is why, when the government was threatening to sell the land that PCMC was sitting on, I was one of those who really raised a fit on social media—because my son had benefited from the excellent care and service (even if the hospital seemed rundown in the early ’90s) the doctors and the hospital provided. What a shame it would have been if the sale had pushed through! Thankfully that’s all in the past and PCMC is safe and secure where it is.
Migi’s surgeries were done at the Philippine Heart Center, back then the best-run government hospital for cardiac patients. I believe the standard of care there has not diminished to this day. It’s heartening to know that majority of Philippine government hospitals are being efficiently run.
From a patient’s viewpoint, perhaps the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City is the gold standard for government hospitals nationwide. Yes, I dare say, even better than the Philippine General Center. SPMC’s ER is world-class, even better than some of the private hospitals in Manila.
The ordeal of a loved one’s confinement in a hospital can be really stressful, especially when you don’t have resources, or if you’re in a hospital for the first time in your life with a sick family member. The waiting time wreaks havoc on your nerves; sometimes the conditions under which you are made to wait only add to the burden.
It’s a good thing there are now groups like Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (Papo) that put the spotlight on issues regarding the quality of care provided to patients and families. Last week it held the First Philippine Patients Conference which gathered 100 participants from patient organizations, health advocates in civil society, women’s health groups, government and healthcare professionals to discuss crosscutting issues and concerns on health.
Papo, led by executive director Girlie Lorenzo (one of the founding mothers of Kythe, the child life-support group for children with cancer), is an NGO that serves as a coalition of formally registered patient groups in the country. It currently has 15 member organizations and is affiliated with the International Association of Patient Organizations (Iapo).
Papo’s goal is to empower Filipino patients in promoting their rights to become productive members of society.
During the conference, patient organizations shared their experiences relating to access, availability, and affordability of medicines and treatments, lack of information and engagement from relevant government agencies, and lack of psychosocial support as well as stigma associated to their conditions.
Papo is an organization whose time has come. As Girlie says, “If we unite, we could become a stronger voice and promote patient rights. There is strength in numbers.”
The conference output was a “Patient Manifesto,” which summarizes priority areas to enable a stronger patient voice and a truly patient-centered healthcare system.
The top three priority areas: all health agencies and facilities must have a patient desk to help navigate patients’ concerns; Papo representation in the Philhealth Board serve as the patients’ voice; and that there be a holistic approach to healing by including psychosocial support in the provision of care in all hospitals.
This last point is a personal favorite, and one cannot undermine or negate the importance of psychosocial care in a time of illness—not just for the patient, but for the family and caregivers as well.
Having once been on the other side of the spectrum, as the mother of a patient, and at the same time exposed to the good that government hospitals can provide when they are efficiently run, I hope Papo succeeds in all its endeavors.
One of the best ways a country can truly care for its people is during a time of need—and times of illness are precisely that. After all, access to medicines and health services is a right that mustn’t be denied anyone, rich or poor.
It isn’t the reality yet, but there is hope that, one day, hopefully in our children’s lifetime, we will eventually get there.