Thursday, July 12, 2007

Politics in the Time of Dengue

Doctoring in the Philippines is so different from doctoring in the US. You never run out of patients who urgently need to be seen by a physician here in the Philippines. As soon as you set-up shop and people find out you don’t charge, the patients are endless. And we are talking about very ill patients, resulting from years of neglect. Those who are most in need of medical attention are also those who cannot afford to pay anything. You can prescribe all the medications you want and you can order all the tests you feel are essential but most of the time nothing will get done. The patient will continue to get worse and your helplessness will frustrate you into a rage unlike anything you’ve felt before especially if the patient is 4 years old.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever is Grand Rounds material at the Harvard Medical School. Over here, the disease is so prevalent insect repellent takes on the aura of the Salk vaccine. Many kids die because we don’t have enough platelets to transfuse before they bleed to death. I suspect that many fatalities are not recorded because fever in children is very common and many are simply found dead in the morning.

If you see the squatter colonies that dot the country, you won’t have a hard time understanding why dengue is such a common killer. People live ON cesspools. Fetid, stagnant water is everywhere. Mosquito-breeding is an industry. But look, these people have a right to housing and they can be relied upon to vote for those who protect their rights, or at least those who promise to protect their rights.

We need politicians more than we need doctors. What good does a right diagnosis give when you can’t treat it anyway? We have one, big, all-encompassing diagnosis in our country today and it is that our leaders have failed us and they continue to insist on treading down the same failed approach to solve our worsening problems. Do our statesmen have anything to be proud about? All this jockeying over the senate presidency and all this posturing for the Presidential elections in 2010 almost seems humorous next to the dengue outbreak. It has been transformed into a ridiculous race with the prize being who gets to screw the country next?

1 comment:

r.g. lacsamana, m.d. said...

The paradox here is that as many doctors and nurses the country produces each year, most of them want to leave the country as soon as they can. It's no wonder our health system there is broken, with no basic medical care available to those who most need it.

Outside of Manila and other big towns and cities where there are charity clinics and provincial hospitals, access to medical care is woefully deficient. That explains the third-rate care prevalent there, exemplified by epidemics that should have been curbed permanently long ago.

Taking care of peole's health should be a priority in the order of improving the economy. Few, however, have taken the lead in examining the health system there and prescribing the right solutions.

I will have to agree with Martin that our so-called leaders spend too much of their time politicking and ignoring problems, of which we have so many. Educating voters about these is vital, and maybe, just maybe, the time will come when they will start choosing the right leaders. Political leadership, past and present, has been an ignominious failure.