Photo source: Philippines Star

At one point in our lives, we will belong to the elderly population, some of us will be vulnerable, discriminated, and uninformed of the benefits and privileges, which is one thing we can avoid if we act today. – Dr. Marieta Banez Sumagaysay, National Research Council of the Philippines, Executive Director.

Although satisfied with the 20% discount on professional medical fees and medicines and free access to healthcare services, recent study found that elderly in Metro Dumaguete are unsatisfied with the miscellaneous healthcare services in the country.

These miscellaneous healthcare services, which demand substantial budget, are the medical assistance during disasters, family care or group homes for neglected older persons, and monthly stipend for medicine.

The National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), the policy advisory body of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), pushes for the adoption of the policy recommendations for the improvement of benefits, privileges and healthcare system that will address the needs of senior citizens.

Even if the elderly are generally satisfied with the quality of healthcare that they receive, the private healthcare personnel and institutions are always perceived to offer high-quality and sufficient services and facilities but at a higher price which many underprivileged elderlies cannot afford.

The study on the local context of health status of older population was led by Dr. Enrique G. Oracion, NRCP member of Division of Social Sciences, and Director of Research and Development Center at the Silliman University in Dumaguete. This study provides policy-based solutions to improve the healthcare services for older persons.

Elderly healthcare policies for adoption

One of the policies being recommended is to promote preventive healthcare given the financial conditions of senior citizens through information about common health problems and how to handle these without seeing healthcare professionals unless critically needed.

Elderly is unsatisfied with the miscellaneous healthcare services which is just enough or insufficient.

Another is to sustain the funding of free medical consultation and maintenance medicine by rural health units (RHU) and public hospitals. This will encourage the elderly to consistently avail of it.

NRCP also sees the need to simplify the roles of various agencies in financing the miscellaneous healthcare benefits and privileges. It will be easier for the seniors to know where to go, either the local government health units (LGUs), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or the Department of Health (DOH).

According to Article XV, Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution, “The family has the duty to care for its elderly members although the State may also do so through just programs of social security.” The research council also pushes the feasibility of the creation and operation of community-based caregiving services that may cater to neglected or older persons living alone and those needing after hospital care.

These policy recommendations were presented by Dr. Oracion during the NRCP Visayas Regional Policy Forum: Are Older Person Satisfied? Assessing the Quality and Sufficiency of Local Healthcare Delivery, on December 2, 2020 via online.

Additional important messages from the forum

Miscellaneous services under our law should be reviewed by the government officials to strengthen the delivery of these services to senior citizens. Also, the LGUs and National Government Agencies should consider creating a program to support elderly people, specifically job opportunities, to sustain their basic necessities for their everyday life.

The forum also presented the overview of the Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010 or the Republic Act (RA) No. 9994 and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation Act of 2013 or RA No. 10606 which already institutionalized the programs and policies to maintain the quality of life and health of the older Filipino population. Likewise, Oracion also gave an update on PhilHealth Benefits and Programs.

It is important to note that despite dissatisfaction, elderly people in Metro Dumaguete still have positive view of life.

"This forum is dedicated to the Senior Citizens”, said Dr. Marieta Banez Sumagaysay, NRCP Executive Director. She added that NRCP is steadfast in playing its role as advisory body of government on national interest. She hopes that the results of the study will serve as basis for policy recommendations to improve the healthcare system for the elders.

In photo: Prof. Fortunato T. de la Peña, DOST Secretary, Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, DOST Undersecretary for R&D, Dr. Marieta Bañez Sumagaysay, DOST-NRCP Executive Director, and Dr. Enrique G. Oracion, NRCP member of Division of Social Sciences during the 1st Virtual Visayas Policy Forum, on December 2, 2020 via Zoom.

Prof. Fortunato T. de la Peña, DOST Secretary, is looking forward for the policy recommendations to be adopted by the policymakers to address the health needs of the elderly.

Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, DOST Undersecretary for R&D, shares the same sentiment to improve the healthcare needs for the senior citizens by providing them adequate services and help them access these services at an affordable cost.

The said forum was attended by the DSWD, DOH, LGUs, Office of the Senior Citizens affairs, and the NRCP partner policy makers.