Next week, the whole nation is going to make a crucial decision on who will compose half of the Senate.
Laws are the backbone of any country. We need them to prop us up and to progress when they are implemented properly. Although law execution may no longer be its main responsibility, the Senate must perform its job of overseeing effective implementation of the laws it has passed.
One such law we’re quite anxious about is the Universal Health Care (UHC) law, which aims to give everyone, particularly the poor, adequate access to free medical services. It’s a big boost to level the disparity in the dispensation of health care services in the country.
It’s not for the rich, who can very well afford to pay out of their pockets for excellent services in world-class medical centers we have a good number of in the country. UHC is really more for those who can barely make both ends meet.
I get reminded of what Dr. Willie Ong told me some 15 years ago. Doc Willie, a well-trained specialist in internal medicine and cardiology, used to cover for me and look after my private patients at the Manila Doctors Hospital (MDH) whenever I was away for conferences.
One day, he told me he would no longer be able to do so, as he was giving up his private practice for good. He decided he would just concentrate on treating indigent patients.
He said there were countless others who had not even seen the shadow of a doctor. He and his wife Liza wanted to focus on these people full time. He had already been helping them through his charity clinics and medical missions over the last 10 years.
I felt sad that I would have to look for another medical partner, but I was happy at how Doc Willie turned out. He was my protégé at the start of his training as a first year resident in internal medicine at MDH. His compassion and empathy for patients were beyond the usual. Patients didn’t mind if I was away, so long as Doc Willie was there to attend to them.
Doc Willie calls me his mentor, but I think he has mentored me and his fellow doctors more on what the real meaning of being a physician is all about.
It’s a big privilege to be a physician who commands respect in the community. Some perks come with it, but only a handful can give up all these perks and assume responsibilities many would avoid, like attending to difficult cases who are dirt poor. The doctor would even have to fork out money to help the poor with medicines, laboratory work-ups and surgeries.
I sincerely believe that we need Doc Willie in the Senate—he’s running for a seat—to help in the meaningful implementation of UHC. Its provisions are well in line with his GOAL platform.
Who truly needs them
G stands for gamot or free medicine, especially for common medical problems. We also need a system of making sure that the medicines are given to who truly needs them. Local government units (LGU) are also giving some free medicine, but many note that they’re only given to those close to some LGU officials. A rational free drug distribution system requires that high-risk patients are identified and given priority in the distribution of these medicines.
O is for operasyon. Some surgical procedures can be life-changing for many people, like surgeries for early breast, colorectal, thyroid and many other cancers. They’re curative if done early, but the problem is that many postpone seeing their doctors until their cancers are beyond intervention. If surgical services are done without expense to indigent patients, many lives can be saved.
A is for abiso or free medical consultations. Many illnesses can be nipped in the bud if they’re detected early and the patients are followed up on regularly. This is true even for chronic medical problems that require lifelong treatment, like diabetes, high blood pressure and lung disease. Free medical checkups that can maintain wellness are also important. It’s about time that we shift from curative to preventive medicine.
L is for laboratory work-ups. Basic lab tests like chest x-ray, blood chemistries, urinalysis and electrocardiogram can assist the doctor in evaluating patients better. Doctors are trained to develop a “clinical eye” to diagnose on the basis of a good history and physical examination.
This is good clinical practice, but in a good number of cases, misdiagnosis and wrong treatment could be avoided with some basic lab tests.
I say Doc Willie is a rare breed. I will not pass up this chance to put him in the Senate.