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Health groups join anti-corruption protests in the Philippines

by Philip Paraan Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008 at 9:43 AM Quezon City Philippines

Health group hit the Arroyo government in the Philippines for its unbridled corruption while it continues to neglect health care and other essential social services.

Out of hospitals and clinics and into the streets, health groups hit the Arroyo government in the Philippines for its unbridled corruption.

Doctors, nurses, and other members of the health sector under the Health Alliance for Truth and Justice joined in the calls for the Mrs. Arroyo’s removal from office. They said so because they bear witness to how corruption and the insatiable greed of powerful political elite and how it is taking its toll on the public health care system.

The colossal P6.5 billion (US$ 130 million) “commission” demanded by former Elections agency chair, Benjamin Abalos, out of the aborted and flawed NBN-ZTE broadband deal, according to the health advocates is enough to cover:

 15,000 kidney transplant surgeries at P600,000 each

 49,000 open-heart surgeries costing at least P200,000 each

 325,000 cataract surgeries

 6,500,000 patients for a seven day course of antibiotics

 the medication of 1,083, 333 TB patients on the estimated cost of Php 6,000, administered in six months

 5 times the current budget of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the country’s leading goverment hospital, which serves around 600,000 patients a year, with an admission rate of 4, 000 cases a month.

 the subsistence allowance for 70, 000 public health workers for the next five years.

 a P3, 000 across the board wage increase of all government health personnel health for the next 2 years.

The political rut uncovered by the ZTE-NBN scam, and the ensuing exposé made by Engr. Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, again only underscores the systemic and endemic corruption in Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s leadership since she stepped into power.

It is a presidency often described as “among the most corrupt in Asia” by various independent watchdogs and monitors like the Transparency International.

The country has never been so embroiled in multi-million corruption scandals than the current regime. Its laundry list of shady deals date back to the Diosdado Macapagal highway (overpriced by P536M), the fertilizer scam (P728M funds for farmers stolen by Agriculture secretary Joc-joc Bolante), North Luzon Rail project (suspiciously priced at 3M), and the P500,000 cash gifts to Arroyo’s political allies at the height of an impeachment complaint.

It is reported that 20% of the national budget goes to corruption. According to the Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism(PCIJ), 7 out of 10 official development aid (ODAs) are mostly white elephants and really do not deliver the economic benefits. These ODA’s only serve as opportunities for exacting kickbacks and enriching those in power.

Health groups decry that corruption directly translates to the paltry health budget, so sorely insufficient that it cannot effect any palpable change in the country’s health indicators. Money should be used to help save lives, mitigate epidemics, prevent the rise of infectious diseases, and improve the well-being of ordinary Filipinos. Instead, this money is stolen from government funds and enjoyed by a privileged few.

The conditions of public hospitals can be exemplified by Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the country’s leading tertiary care hospital, which has not experienced any significant raise in government subsidy in the last 10 years.

Meanwhile, the very same pervasive corruption erodes the interest of health professionals to do practice in the country.

They vowed to join more protests in the coming days.

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