WOULD YOU LIKE A PIÑA COLADA WITH YOUR ANTIBIOTIC, SIR?
So I guess the travel brochures of our country will get just a wee bit thicker pretty soon. And right beside the breezy photos of Boracay, Palawan and the Banawe Rice Terraces, there will be photos of… syringes and scalpels?
Yep, that’s right. This gorgeous country of ours that has one of the most ironic shortages of manpower in the medical field is now going to promote “medical tourism.” The government has deemed us ready for it. We’re cheap, we’re talented, and we are not exactly very high up on the malpractice laws. Totally safe for doctors, I’m just not too sure about the patients.
Oh, and about talent, we sure have a lot of it. But by the time the aforementioned talent has been honed well enough to actually be useful, they hop on a plane and go nurse white people for up 10 to 12 dollars PER HOUR. But hey, we still got hard-working nurses here who slave and toil away at minimum wage, while counting the days when they can afford another round of Chickenjoy. We got great hard-working doctors and nurses in a lot of public medical institutions, whom our government officials hail as “modern heroes.” Especially since these self-same officials took the health budget and bought a few more techni-color lampposts to serve as their “legacy.”
Granted, the country could always use the added income of increased tourism, but there’s something to be said about the government’s penchant for capitalizing on the private sector, while not doing any real work.
In a CBS news report, an official from a major hospital here in Metro Manila reported that their number of interns took a total nosedive from 152 interns down to only five for 2007. The number of medical residents in some hospitals is also down by an average of 40% between 2006 and 2007. A poignant point of all this is that many of these talented doctors are leaving to become nurses, mostly in the United States. But the downgrade in career paths also means an upgrade in income. Fat chance they’ll get that here in a million years.
So, “medical tourism” is an ultimate irony, if you ask me. In a country where even the most basic forms of healthcare have become the avenue of the rich, a privilege to an affluent few, “medical tourism” is a big slap on the faces of our sick and ailing poor. Imagine the pathos when a foreigner bathes under the Philippine sun (swimsuits, straw hats and all), while waiting for the schedule of her next boob job, and her margarita is served by a waiter, who probably needs a cash advance just to pay for the doctor’s fees in his infant child’s next check up. Assuming his province even HAS a doctor available.
Yeah… imagine the brochures… “COME TO THE PHILIPPINES FOR YOUR NEXT TUMMY TUCK… FOR YOUR NEXT NOSE JOB… FOR YOUR NEXT TRANSPLANT SURGERY… THIS IS THE FUTURE HOME OF ASIAN MEDICAL TOURISM…!”
Yes, yes, yes! We are ready for “Medical Tourism.” After laying down heavy taxes on professionals including the medical community, “Medical Tourism!” In an age where professional licenses and regulations are more and more suspect, and the over-hype in cosmetic procedures have lead to unscrupulous individuals practicing with unlicensed scalpels to cater to the poor but aspiring, “Medical Tourism!” While many rural areas have dying citizens for want of a mere antiseptic… all together now: “MEDICAL TOURISM!”
Yeah, we’re ready alright.