This summer I spent 7 weeks in the Philippines working on an Advanced Study Grant project. The goals of my project were to compare health care in public and private clinical settings within a developing country, interview Filipino healthcare leaders about the social determinants of health in the population, and enhance my fluency in Tagalog (the Filipino language).
I spent most of my trip working at Doctora Olivia Salamanca Memorial District Hospital, a small government hospital in Cavite City. Government hospitals in the Philippines serve the poorer population because basic care is free. However, the patient has to pay for supplies (since the hospital is usually out of them) and more expensive procedures such as operations. Insurance premiums are very expensive therefore, most Filipinos pay for medical care as they need it. With nearly 35% of the population below the poverty line, typically, the middle and upper class can only afford private care. For example, it costs a patient about 5,000 Philippine pesos per day to stay in Asian Hospital and Medical Center, one of the top private hospitals in Manila. Though as of August 2011 that may only equate to about $120 USD, something I was told over and over by my family was to not convert their money into dollars because the average Filipino doesn’t earn in dollars, he earns in pesos. To put the cost in perspective, a nurse in a government hospital only earns 16,000 Philippine pesos per month, thus, a hospital stay at a private facility can easily use up a family’s savings.
At Salamanca, I spent most of my time in the emergency, operating, and delivery rooms. I worked with a number of patients with lacerations, cysts that needed irrigation, stab wounds, and gun shot wounds. The most common cases were dengue fever, pneumonia, cardiac issues, and diabetes. My most memorable experiences include delivering a baby, caring for sick infants in the NICU, and assisting in Caesarian sections.
After working at Salamanca for about a month, I returned to Manila to interview the Secretary of Social Welfare and Development about healthcare policy and affordability in the Philippines. I learned about the politics and corruption that plague the country’s healthcare system and what the new administration is doing to improve it. It was interesting to hear about the new policies the government is planning to implement after seeing how much everyday patients need them. I will benefit from my advanced study project in the Philippines in a myriad of ways. Already my experience has taught me to have an open mind about healthcare in different parts of the world because the way we receive treatment here in the United States may be completely different from how a patient is used to being treated somewhere else. I am incredibly grateful for being granted the opportunity to conduct a project like this because it has prepared me to work in a global society.