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105TH Annual Convention and Scientific Meeting of the Philippine Medical Association

May 16, 2012




Today, for the 105th time, in as many years, that is for more than a century, we physicians gather yet again to discuss how we can further hone their craft, and how we can better be of service to the Philippine society.

The Philippine Medical Association has indeed been around for a long time. Over the century it has remained steadfast in its goal of maintaining a unified guild of physicians advocating professional advancement and promoting public health. It is such an honor to be here today, as it marks its 105th Annual Convention, quite a tremendous feat if I may say.

From shamans and apothecaries to today’s rather complex medical specialties all its numerous specialties and subspecialties, society has always looked up to us engaged in healing. This is easily understandable. Health and preservation of life is a paramount concern for us all. And so it is but natural for people to highly regard and value physicians.

As we accept our special place in society, we are likewise burdened with a duty to look out for not just our patients but our community at large. Your theme, “Manggagamot Kaagap sa Sambayanan Tungo sa Tunay na Pagbabago,” says it all. Physician partners with the people towards a meaningful change.

As physicians, we can be catalysts of change. As physicians, we are empowered to heal not just diseases but the injustices and inequities that permeate our society. Our position allows us to educate people, to lead, and to initiate action.

You are all aware of Kalusugan Pangkalahatan, this administration’s commitment to achieve universal health care for all Filipinos. As we speak we are doubling our efforts to make this vision a reality.

We have made significant gains in terms of improving financial risk protection by expanding PhilHealth enrolment and benefit delivery; improving access to quality hospitals and health care facilities through our health facilities enhancement program and our deployment of healthcare professionals; and attaining our health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

A week ago, the House Committee on Ways and Means approved House Bill No. 5727, popularly known as the Sin Tax bill, which aims to raise revenues from excise tax on alcohol and tobacco. If enacted, the revenues generated through these sin taxes will help finance the enrolment of 40 million Filipino families. These families fall within the poorest 40% of our population, which we plan to cover by the end of 2012. This number is a big leap from the 5.3 million families we have enrolled in PhilHealth through national government subsidy for the past year. We want an effective social health insurance scheme and to attain this, we will have to have everyone covered. This is why we find the passage of the measure very important. I know you support the government in this endeavor.

Another bill that I would like all of us to support is the House Bill 4244 or the Responsible Parenthood Bill which I know some are not in favor of. I believe that families especially the very poor should be empowered to decide on their family size. Our support for this measure is not even about curbing the population, it is just giving mothers the power to decide the size of their family. It has been reported that 2.2 million Filipino mothers have an unmet need for family planning, meaning 2.2 million mothers want to limit or space births but are not able to do so. This is a problem of access to information and family planning services. I have issued a directive to the DOH to reduce unmet need by half by the end of the 2012. Reducing unmet need will also help us reach our MDG of reducing maternal mortality and improving maternal health. Studies have consistently shown that mothers with unplanned and mistimed pregnancies are the ones who become more at risk for maternal deaths. House Bill 4244 will certainly aid our efforts as will particularly empower Local Governments in pursing responsible parenthood programs in their localities.

I cannot overemphasize the fact that health professionals, especially physicians, remain to be a critical component in all our efforts. Take away competent and dedicated health professionals, and all the hospitals we built and repaired, and all the families we have enrolled in PhilHealth will mean nothing. That is why we are very grateful for PMA’s continued support for all the Department of Health’s KP efforts and your willingness and boldness to take on a more active role in achieving all our KP targets.

Technology has revolutionized the medical profession in so many and in such unpredictable ways; it has grown and evolved drastically throughout the decades. We have harnessed medical advances to treat our patients better, to do procedures unconceivable a few decades back. We physicians have readily embraced these changes, we have bended and flexed and flowed with the flux.

The PMA’s endeavour to heed our call to go beyond the traditional role of physicians as simply healers makes me proud to be a part of the medical profession now more than ever. It’s willingness to find new avenues to assist the government in ensuring the health of our populace deserves much commendation as well as emulation.

Aside from the kick-off of this convention, I believe the PMA and PhilHealth will be signing their Memorandum of Agreement today. This MOA will result to the automatic PhilHealth accreditation of PMA members in good standing. This means that more physicians will be able to provide healthcare to PhilHealth beneficiaries, especially our poorest countrymen who have already been enrolled. I wish to thank PMA for yet making itself relevant to our KP efforts.

To the members of the Medical Association of Southeast Asian Nations who are also with us today, welcome to the Philippines. This is a perfect opportunity for you to take a glimpse of how our dedicated and hardworking physicians deal with the challenges of our healthcare system.

I have no doubt that this will be a professionally rewarding experience. Also after this convention, you might want to explore our beautiful country; there are marvels to be discovered in our beaches, caves, and mountains.

The great Roman statesman Cicero has once remarked “In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in giving health to men.” There is much truth in his words and I do hope that you keep these in mind. As healers, there is much we can do, and there is much we should do.

Thank you and good day!