Right for the Privileged, Luxury for the Oppressed


In fear of contracting COVID-19, soon-to-be mother of three Katherine Bulatao chose to give birth in their home in Caloocan. However, she suffered intensive blood loss which demanded immediate medical intervention. After being refused admission by six hospitals amid profuse bleeding, 26-year-old Katherine passed away—five hours after giving birth.

This incident does not only speak of an unfortunate circumstance solely distinct to Katherine. Instead, her death reflects a bigger issue pertaining to a problematic healthcare system and a demarcating line separating our society into the privileged and the oppressed.

Katherine’s husband received disparate reasons from the hospitals they had sought. These included the lack of resources and demand for initial deposit. Hence, it would be substantial to address each one.

Firstly, Republic Act No. 8344 states that in cases of emergency wherein there is inadequacy in necessary facilities and/or supplies, it is the responsibility of the hospital to direct patients to nearby health institutions capable of providing the medical care these patients require. However, the transfer could only be done once the receiving hospital has agreed and emergency support has been administered. However, taking the husband’s claims as accurate, the aforementioned procedures were apparently unfulfilled. Instead, the hospital where the patient was referred also refused admission citing the shortage of available rooms. Furthermore, the husband claims that the hospitals did not bother to check his wife’s vital signs.

Secondly, the patient’s right to appropriate medical care and humane treatment, as specified by the Department of Health (DOH), was indiscriminately violated after a hospital allegedly asked for a thirty thousand-peso deposit. The DOH has long inculcated that discrimination deserves no place in public healthcare especially with regard to a patient’s financial capabilities. The act was also in grave contrary to the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law, which took effect in 2018. 

Katherine’s case has indubitably unveiled prevailing issues in the Philippine healthcare system that are in dire need of attention.

For one, the country lacks health facilities, medical supplies, and healthcare providers. For instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 20 beds per 10,000 people. Nonetheless, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the hospital beds in the country only stagger at 9.9. On the other hand, the WHO recommends 1:1000 doctor to population ratio but the Philippines falls short at 1: 33,000. In terms of community healthcare service, only 47% of barangays have operational health centers. This undeniable deficit has become highly conspicuous when the system was overwhelmed with the pandemic. The availability of ventilators has dictated the maximum capacity of hospitals to save lives.

In the midst of this lack, one thing is certain: justice needs to be served.

Therefore, the government needs to examine the case closely in order to identify blatant violations. If proven guilty, the hospitals should be held liable to ensure that future similar incidents would be prevented. Otherwise, the enforcement of pertinent laws would be rendered ineffective.

In addition, the case is a negative externality of the government’s low prioritization of health sectors as evident in the national budget. The over-all share of the sector has plummeted from 4.9 to 4.5 percent. This has cut the budget of essential projects such as the Health Systems Strengthening Project by 6 billion pesos. Hence, the government must increase the budget of health sectors for the betterment of healthcare services in the country.

It is indeed disheartening to witness unnecessary deaths in a time when saving lives is critical. Undeniably, Katherine is just one of the many Filipinos who are victims of a poor system. Thus, mandated by the Constitution to uphold public interest at all cost, the government must work hand-in-hand with Philippine hospitals to ensure that healthcare is no longer just a right for the privileged nor a luxury for the oppressed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s