40% of poor patients die waiting at PHC

Published by rudy Date posted on February 17, 2009

For the poor, waiting to get an operation at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) is apparently deadlier than surgery itself, a hospital official said Monday.

About 40 percent of about 800 indigent patients die while waiting for surgery, while only 2 percent die from heart surgery, the center’s director, Dr. Ludgerio Torres, said during a weekly media forum at Sulo Hotel in Quezon City.

Torres said the Philippine Heart Center needs more funding from Congress so it could save more lives.

The Heart Center has an annual budget of P150 million and a single open-heart surgery costs around P300,000, he added. The hospital shoulders the operation expenses of poor patients, but because of the budget constraints, the center cannot operate on all those who need surgery but cannot afford it.

Some patients wait for more than a year, the doctor said, but he did not mention how long is the average waiting time.

To complicate matters, the hospital is treating more people these days. Patients requiring heart surgery today are younger, some between 18 and 24 years old, the doctor said, adding that unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyles are to blame. Before, heart patients were typical 40 years and older.

Torres added that to save on expenses, the hospital is also sourcing additional funds from heart patients who are capable of paying for the procedure in full. The hospital also has some partnerships with private groups, including Rotary clubs that sponsor surgery for poor patients. Even with those things, Torres said the hospital needs more funding.

The Philippine Heart Center is the only government hospital capable of performing heart surgery—the reason why there is a long queue of indigents wanting to have surgery there, he explained.

To help ease the backlog, Torres said they are going round the Philippines convincing other government hospitals to also offer heart surgery so that indigents in their area would not need to go to Manila for the operation. So far, the center’s officials have approached hospitals in Batangas, Zambales, Iloilo and Davao provinces, as well as some in the Bicol region.

“We are willing to help other medical institution nationwide regarding heart surgery, which is as ordinary as [an] appendectomy,” he added.
–Jefferson Antiporda, Manila Times

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