DAY 5.1: Glimpse into Being Sick in the Philippines

Updated: Oct 13, 2018

There is so much power in context.

When I pictured what a doctor's visit would be like here, I envisioned setting an appointment, arriving a little bit early and waiting to be seen shortly after, getting an prescription and picking it up from the pharmacy. Similar to what it would be like in the US.

Not the case.

My cousin Pauline, who just finished pharmacy school, traveled all the way from Manila (which is a 4 hour journey) to let me pick her brain about the Philippines health care. So now I have the perspective from Filipino Pharmacist (Pauline), Filipino Nurse (Joy), Filipino Patient (Pam) point of view!

I asked them to walk me through what a doctor visit is actually like. They said that it is a “First-Come-First-Serve” experience with politics (if you know someone then you can move to the front of the line, etc). You arrive at 7am to wait until your turn in line. And that depends on when the MDs show up. It is typically a small window of time (11am-1pm) and they may come back later in the day. You have to hope that you made it early enough and do not fall after the cut off for that day- so there is no guarantee if you would be seen even if you waited.

As my research put it, the Philippines has a very low physician-to- household ratio. In 2017, it was estimated that there were only 1 physician per 33,000 patients.

If you had to be admitted, they described the hospitals as having 50 beds per room, no air conditioning and if beds aren’t available then stretcher will be used until a bed becomes available.

They gave me a personal example of arriving at 7 am and at 11 am she was finally seen (and that is being 10th on the list)! They gave another example of showing up at 7 am to be seen and after 3 hours of waiting, the staff notified her that the doctor would not be coming in today. I asked if she went back another day and she said no. I would not have either.

I personally would just suck it up if I was sick and not go to the Dr if this was the case. Especially because doctors notes are required to be off sick.

This is a huge barrier to health care.
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