Baguio patients offer ways to enhance Angara bill

BAGUIO CITY – Members of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center Dialysis Patients and Partners Association offered suggestions to Senator Sonny Angara to enhance the lawmaker’s bill that would require all the government hospitals to provide free dialysis treatment for poor patients in the country.

In a letter to Angara dated April 21, association president Ramon Dacawi lauded the senator for taking the cudgels for the thousands of dialysis patients in the country but put forward recommendations and observations recommended ways to “enrich the bill and make it more effective in achieving its purpose.”

Dacawi proposed that the treatment be made free for all patients whether indigent or not.

He said this can be attained if all the funds being provided by the Philhealth and the Department of Health being accessed through the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives will be pooled into one fund source to propel a unified free dialysis program.

“Free dialysis (for all) is practical and attainable given the fact that Philhealth already provides 90 free dialysis sessions per year for member-patients and the shortfall in the yearly requirement can be covered by the collective DOH fund (formerly the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF) accessed through the senators and congressmen to realize a nationwide year-round free dialysis health policy,” Dacawi explained.

He said patients turn to lawmakers to cover the deficiency in their Philhealth allocation but there were many who were not aware or do not have access to these sources given the voluminous papers patients have to submit.

The bill’s provision that only patients who are indigent or whose combined family income does not exceed P30,000 a month should also be reconsidered.

“Even families with monthly income higher than P30,000 per month cannot cope with the financial requirements of maintaining the dialysis treatment of a family member moreso if the patient is the father or the mother who because of his or her condition can no longer work as the sole or main breadwinner thereby drastically reducing or even totally removing the family income,” he said.

One dialysis session costs P2,200 and a patient undergoes two or three or even four times a week.  This does not include the twice-a-week Epoetin injection at P1,100 per vial plus the maintenance medicines, blood transfusion and hospitalization.

On the proposal to establish dialysis centers in key medical centers, Dacawi said it “is in order but it will take time for all government provincial hospitals to establish (these).”

“With these reasons, we are hopeful that Your Honor would strengthen the bill by making dialysis free for all patients because of its nature as an emergency, life-saving procedure,” Dacawi told the senator.

Dacawi with the media group Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC) and the Philippine Information Agency Cordillera (PIA-CAR) spearheaded the signature campaign launched last January to convince national leaders and health offices to adopt a unified free dialysis program in the country.

At present the campaign has produced over 40,000 signatures and counting from all over the country and overseas even as more groups and individuals have initiated their own drives to support the advocacy.

Last week, Braulio Comelab, an Australian expatriate and member of the BIBAK Melbourne Branch met with Dacawi and pledged to initiate his own campaign in his adoptive country.

Several local government units in the region also passed resolutions of support to the cause.

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

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