Hontiveros appeals to PhilHealth to continue free dialysis coverage amid pandemic

Sixty-year old Tatay Edgar is among 150 elderly dialysis patients at the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center (GABMMC) in Manila who were prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination. (Manila Public Information Office photo)

CALOOCAN CITY, May 10 (PIA) -- Senator Risa Hontiveros is urging the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to continue the 144 day dialysis coverage for all patients while the country remains in a state of emergency, similar to what the agency provided in 2020.

Hontiveros said the modular hemodialysis facility for COVID-19 positive patients at the National Kidney Institute (NKTI) is a welcome development but it is an insufficient way to ease the burden of other dialysis patients who are unable to work or who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

Dialysis sessions regularly range from P12,000 to P15,000 a week, but sessions for COVID positive patients can cost up to P30,000 a week, according to advocacy group Dialysis PH president, Rey Abacan, Jr.

"Paano mo babayaran ang panggamot na ganyan kamahal na nawalan ka pa ng trabaho o hindi ka makapagtrabaho dahil sa sakit mo? Lunod ka sa utang. Hindi pa kasama dito ang pang araw-araw na gastusin ng pamilya mo. Sickness should not be a death sentence just because you're poor," the senator said.

"Chronically ill patients should not be turned into collateral damage of the pandemic. So much time, attention and resources are being taken away from them, even if their lives were already on the line before the pandemic. Kritikal ang kondisyon ng mga pasyenteng ito, they cannot wait for additional resources. They need treatment immediately," she added.

Hontiveros said the national health insurance agency should upgrade its benefit package from 90 free dialysis sessions to 144 while hospitals continue to remain devastated. The senator stressed that the coverage should also include personal protective equipment (PPEs), the COVID-19 testing required before their sessions, as well as other supply costs being passed on to patients.

"PhilHealth must review its policies in consideration of the full horror story of hospitals these days. Hindi lang COVID ang pumapatay sa mga Pilipino ngayon. Marami sa mga kababayan natin ang naiiwan, at tuluyan, ay namamatay habang nakatutok tayo sa COVID-19 lamang," she said.

The senator said that as the budget season approaches, it is important for the Senate to "re-evaluate" its budget for the Health Department, and to make "considerable" increases for diseases and health programs other than COVID-19.

"Oportunidad talaga ito para patibayin ang ating health care system. Nararamdaman na natin ang mga epekto ng pagkaltas ng budget mula sa Health Department sa gitna ng health crisis. Sana matuto tayo para sa next budget season because the price of our wrong priorities is too steep to pay," she said.

"Ang mga dialysis patients mismo ang nagsabi, parang ginagawa silang sacrificial lambs. Dapat lahat makabangon sa pandemyang ito. No one should get left behind by our pandemic response," Hontiveros added. (PIA NCR)

Source: Philippines Information Agency (pia.gov.ph)

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