Progressive groups said the death of American chemist and Nobel laureate Richard Heck who was denied admission in a private hospital shows glaring proof of “a profit-driven health care system and government neglect in the Philippines.”
Heck, 84, died on October 9 in a public hospital, where he was brought after being denied admission in a private health care facility where he had unpaid bills. He was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry along with two Japanese chemists in 2010. He retired and lived in Quezon City in 2006, with his Filipina wife Socorro, who died in 2012.
“Heck was a victim of a profit-driven health care system and government neglect in the Philippines,” said Feny Cosico, secretary general of the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham).
“Heck has survived prostate cancer and has been taking maintenance for diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and slight dementia. He has been in and out of the hospital for pneumonia since 2013 which sucked out all his remaining fortunes,” Cosico said.
Heck “was severely vomiting when he was rushed to the private hospital, which refused to admit him.
“It is very ironic that Heck’s research has been used to advance medical breakthroughs aiming to save millions of lives, yet he died not receiving treatment,” she added.
Worst place to die
Gabriela Women’s party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus said Heck’s tragic death belies the “straight path” taken by the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd as the country was even included among “[t]he worst places to die,” in the 2015 Quality of Death Index study.
The commissioned study by The Economist for the Lien Foundation ranked the quality of palliative care in 80 countries, in which the Philippines ranked 78th.
De Jesus said Heck’s death puts to shame the P128 billion ($2.78 billion) health budget for 2016, which health sector groups say is “misallocated.”
“Like in the past years’ budgets, the biggest allotments are allocated to Philippine Health Insurance Incorporation (PhilHealth) and Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), which do not address the poor patients’ health needs,” de Jesus said.
“If a person of Heck’s stature with his important contributions to technology that ease society’s burdens cannot seek decent emergency or even hospice care here, how can our millions of poor Filipinos expect quality treatment?” she asked.
According to Agham’s computation, in public hospitals, PhilHealth only covers an average of 27 percent of the cost of expenses, while patients shoulder the rest.
“The average cost of confinement in a public health facility is 43 times larger than the minimum wage, while private facilities cost 66 times more,” the group said.
Cosico said the Nobel laureate should have been treated more humanely, “in gratitude for his role in the field of medical science.”
“Heck is already included in the mortality rate wherein seven out of 10 dying in the Philippines have not seen or consulted a doctor,” he added.