More push sought for Free Dialysis Bill

BAGUIO CITY – Advocates of free dialysis and kidney patients on Thursday called on the public to drum up more support for the passage of the house bill that will provide free dialysis treatment for indigent kidney patients in the country.

Rep. Marquez Go, Councilor Peter Fianza joined members and benefactors of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center Dialysis Patients and Partners Association, the Philippine Information Agency Cordillera and the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club in pushing for the passage of a substitute House Bill entitled “An Act Proving a Comprehensive Renal Replacement Therapy (RRT) for Patients with End Stage Renal Disease in National, Regional and Provincial Government Hospitals and Increasing the Philhealth Package Rate for Renal Replacement Therapy of Members and Appropriating Funds Thereof.”

The bill which seeks to provide free dialysis treatment to indigent patients among others has been approved at the House committee level and is now pending before the Committee on Appropriations for funding purposes.
Go, one of the proponents of the consolidated bill, urged patients all over the country to rally their own congressmen to support the proposal.

He said the bill also seeks the mandatory establishment of dialysis services wards or units in national, regional, provincial government hospitals and the provision of free treatment to indigent patients as identified by the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development using the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction.

Ramon Dacawi former president of the BGHMCDPPA lauded the bill’s intent to establish dialysis wards which he said would decongest BGH and other government regional hospitals where patients even from other provinces flock because they offer lower treatment costs.

He however offered suggestions on the aspect of providing free treatment only to indigent patients as this can be considered a misnomer considering that everyone undergoing the treatment can be considered an indigent because of the financial burden they carry.

“Practically, all patients even those earning P100,000 will have a hard time coping with the financial requirement of maintaining the dialysis treatment of a family member more so 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 lamented.

He suggested that those that will be tasked eventually to draft the Implementing Rules and Regulations and implement the same should not set an income ceiling which he said will only force patients to lie about their income just to qualify.

Go said the definition of indigent in the proposed bill would answer the concern as he said an indigent patient would refer to a patient “who has no source of income or whose income is not sufficient for family subsistence.”

Dacawi, however, reiterated the association’s suggestion that the treatment be made free for all patients whether indigent of 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.

Dr. Virginia Mangati, head of the BGH dialysis department expressed support to the bill agreeing that it would also benefit the hospital which she said is now working to increase the number of dialysis machine units from 30 to 100 to cater to the needs of the growing number of patients, many of whom now come from other regions.

Upon passage in Congress, the bill would go to the Senate where it is expected to be sponsored by Senator Sonny Angara who proposed a similar bill also last year.

Go said he will lobby with the Senate and even to President Duterte personally to make the measure a priority legislation and ensure its immediate passage.

By: Aileen P. Refuerzo


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