Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bethune in the Context of Occidental Mindoro

Today, November 12, 2015, is the 76th death anniversary of Dr. Norman Bethune who made an immortal contribution as a doctor in the Chinese revolutionary war against the Japanese and made innovations on forms of medical practice and surgery. All Chinese know of Norman Bethune and they love to tell everyone about the how the Canadian doctor cured the wounded Chinese in their war against Japan until the day he died of blood poisoning from an infection contracted after cutting himself during surgery. Mao Zedong, in his Little Red Book, though he and Bethune only talked once, wrote a tribute about him that every child had to memorize during the Cultural Revolution and Chinese schoolchildren today continue to learn about him. My mother used to work as helper in a store of a Chinaman before she got married and gave birth to his first born (who happened to be me).

I will not very much dwell here about Bethune’s (or Mao’s) ideological or political ideas or anything that concerns Communism, but about the field of medicine in the Philippine social context especially with the glaring medical quackery and anti- scholastic tendencies among our people. In a third world country such as ours, many private hospitals as well as private doctors charge excessive fees only the elite wealthy classes could afford.

Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos work abroad as health workers, the province of Occidental Mindoro agonises from lack of such professionals compared with the total population of each municipality. In the study titled “Health Status of the Residents in Occidental Mindoro, Philippines: A Way to Make a Healthy Community”, (2014; Rosa Mistica C. Ignacio, et. al) concluded, “Health programs do not guarantee a healthy individual and a healthy society, but a combination of health programs and socioeconomic support can help in creating a healthy community.” But to zero in to emergency care, sans the benefit of reliable statistics, many of the poorest of the poor including the Mangyans die each year due to emergency care they cannot pay. There goes the lack of socioeconomic support from the government.

What Occidental Mindoro needs most, aside from sufficient complete surgical facilities and professionals, is adequate number of ambulatory surgical clinics (ACS) that could provide day surgeries and ambulatory procedures. Though emergency care is emphasized in RA 8344 in 1997 and it penalizes hospitals and medical clinics for refusing to administer appropriate initial medical treatment and support in emergency or serious case. It mandates that all emergency patients be stabilized by giving needed treatment and support without deposit or advance payment. But it is not stipulated in the law how it will be financed. Some greedy private hospital owners, with such legal flaw, designed and effect internal policies and other schemes, denying the patients or making it very hard for them to access emergency health care.

Still, we hardly find specialists and surgeons in Occidental Mindoro serving even in our first class municipalities. Medicines are scarcely provided to the sick and market forces tightening their grip over medical institutions. The people suffer when they cannot have complete reasonable access specifically with regards to emergency care. All we could do is agonize each day when someone we know dies in our hospitals due to unaffordable emergency health care services. We are like living in the battlefront depicted in the 1990 movie “Bethune: The Making of a Hero”, a Donald Sutherland starrer directed by Phillip Borsos.   

Bethune, at against the backdrop of medical disciplines and work ethics states: “Medicine, as we are practicing it, is a luxury trade. We are selling bread at the price of jewels. ... Let us take the profit, the private economic profit, out of medicine, and purify our profession of rapacious individualism ... Let us say to the people not ‘How much have you got?’ but ‘How best can we serve you?’” These words still ring true to this every day after more than 76 years ago when our man, my namesake, uttered these….


(Photo: The Province . Com)

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