Senator Sonny Angara is pushing for the passage of bills that seek to ensure that Filipinos will be provided with better quality of health services from maternal and infant care up to the end-stage of life.
Angara is the principal author of Senate Bill 1537 or the Healthy Nanay and Bulilit Act, also known as the First 1,000 Days Act, that mandates the implementation of a comprehensive healthcare program for mothers, covering the nine months of pregnancy, and the first two years of children.
The veteran legislator has also filed Senate Bill 1555 that integrates hospice and palliative care into the Philippine healthcare system.
Under the bill, palliative and hospice care aims to improve the quality of life of patients with life-limiting, complex and chronic illnesses or those experiencing progressively debilitating diseases beyond any benefit from curative treatment.
“We are thankful to our colleagues for their overwhelming support – with 15 senators as co-authors – for the First 1,000 Days bill. We are very hopeful that it will swiftly pass in the Senate. Sana ay makatanggap din ng ganitong suporta ang Palliative and Hospice Care bill na tumutugon naman sa pangangailangan ng mga may karamdamang wala nang lunas at may taning na ang buhay,” the seasoned lawmaker said.
The youthful senator cited a 2015 Quality of Death study index that listed the Philippines as one of the worst places to die, next only to Iraq and Bangladesh.
The poor scores of the Philippines, which ranked 78th out of 80 countries, in terms of the quality of end-of-life care available was attributed to: the severe shortage of specialized palliative care professionals; lack of government-led strategy for the development and promotion of national palliative care; limited number of government subsidies or programs for individuals accessing palliative care services; and, limited public understanding and awareness of palliative care services.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the following diseases require palliative care at the end-stage of life: cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic lung diseases, diabetes, tuberculosis, kidney failure, HIV-AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, among others.
Data from WHO showed that in 2012, about 300,000 of the estimated 515,000 reported deaths in the Philippines were due to noncommunicable diseases such as stroke, heart attack, cancer, chronic lung disease, and diabetes.
To address this, Angara’s bill mandates all government and private hospitals to provide standard quality palliative and hospice care services to patients with life-threatening illnesses.
The bill further mandates the Philhealth to expand its benefit package to include inpatient palliative services, outpatient hospice care and home-based palliative care.
Immediate family members or relatives who are employed and are assigned by the family to provide palliative and hospice care to a critically ill relative shall also be allowed to use all existing leave benefits granted by their employers.
“Maaaring wala nang lunas ang kanilang karamdaman at paghihirap, pero hindi ito dahilan upang itigil natin ang pagkalinga sa kanila. This bill is a step forward in ensuring that every Filipino family can be given proper care and assistance during the most challenging stages of illness,” he said.