Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Health Workers to the UN: Be a true instrument to end social injustice, and attain health for all

Press Release
17 September 2013


Mr. Jossel I. Ebesate, RN
National President
Alliance of Health Workers
Contact No: +63-918-9276381

Today, September 17, 2013, marks the opening of the 68th Annual session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly where 193 member countries meet “to discuss the steps necessary to improve issues of people everywhere” and at a time when there is widespread and deepening social ills and injustices.

For 68 years, these world leaders who compose this deliberative policy making and organ representative of the United  Nations gather once a year to discuss vital  issues such as poverty, peace, security, human rights, health and disease, inequality and environment”. At this time, world economic  crisis has worsened and health and health care have been directed more by economic policies which are geared towards profit generation.

 The Alliance of Health Workers in solidarity with the Global Nurses United's Global Day of Action, condemns the worsening Philippine health situation brought about by government policies which make the delivery of health services more inaccessible and anti-people. The Aquino government remained numb to the people’s protests against its centerpiece program - the Public Private Partnership including the delivery of health services which essentially privatizes public hospitals and public health services.  This further deprives the poor of the much needed services. The privatization of health has began during the Marcos era and has continued throughout the years, with the Philippine governments having the same template though with different names. Now the Aquino’s Universal Health Care is composed of strategies of health insurance and privatization of public hospitals and other health services. This is nothing but a final step towards the abandonment of state responsibility for people’s health.

With this profit- orientation, it follows that the health workers’ working conditions, wages and benefits have gone from bad to worst. The nurses and health workers suffer from long hours of duty and unjust work overload. The nurse to patient ratio is in average of 1 nurse to 30-40 patients in medical or surgical wards or even up to 100-250 patients in psychiatric wards. There is severe understaffing, with one health worker – a utility worker (UW) covering 2-3 wards, which normally should be covered by 3-6 UWs.  The contractualization, in various forms, which violates the right of any health worker to his/her right to security of tenure, just compensation and benefits, has been a national phenomenon. There are government nurses who are under “job orders” for 3-5 years or has been “casual employees” for 20 years.

“The World Health Organization, as  the trusted authority in directing and coordinating health issues within the United Nations' structure (WHO), should assist developing countries like the Philippines in “attaining the highest possible level of health” through programs which are appropriate and relevant. Like the Health for All by the year 2000, the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) of the UN together with the IMF-WB, which are said to be a set of development targets for the poor by 2015, is most likely to fail. With less than 1000 days to go, the goal to reduce maternal mortality for example, is very far from the target of 52 per 100,000/live births.

Considering that policies and programs imposed by international financial institutions, i.e. IMF/WB/ADB, are primarily geared for the benefits of big business rather than real development of the people, the Filipinos and other developing countries can never have a healthy living with the worsening economic and political situation that further deprived of them of their right to health. The top down approach to “development” as viewed by big business and being promoted and implemented by international financial institutions, and also transcends to multilateral agencies like the UN and WHO, is further compounded at the national level by national and local politicians who viewed government as a business, where they could amass power and wealth as exemplified by the “P10B Napoles scandal”, at the expense direct services to the people.

Thus, we, the health workers who are witnesses to the daily sufferings of the Filipino people due to social injustice including extreme poverty,  lack of health services, unemployment and lack of basic housing, call on the WHO and the United Nations to stand side by side with the people.  It is not enough to diagnose poverty and prescribe goals and programs for developing countries like the Philippines. The United Nations should truly be an instrument to help end social injustice and uplift the people’s conditions of misery, deprivation and exploitation. Health, being a basic right should never be used for profit and should remain mainly as a state responsibility.

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