By Philippine News Agency
Dialysis patients and their families have high hopes the “free dialysis bill” pending in Congress will soon become a law and save thousands of lives in the country.
“We are hoping that the bill will be passed before the end of the 17th Congress,” Baguio City Rep. Mark Go said in a press conference here on Thursday.
Updating advocates in the city–dialysis patients, their families, supporters, and the city government– Go said the House Committee on Health, where he is a member, had approved the proposed substitute bill.
It was also referred to the Committee on Appropriations afterward, he said.
When the committee submits a report, it will be up for deliberation in the plenary for second reading.
After passage on second reading, it will be calendared for third and final reading and the copy of the approved bill transmitted to the Senate.
The same process is undertaken and if the bill is passed by the Senate, the enrolled bill is transmitted to the Office of the President for his signature, effectively making it a law.
House Bill (HB) 5503, which Go has authored, was matched by nine other bills in Congress. A technical working group was later formed that drafted a substitute bill, consolidating the contents of the proposed bills.
“The bill, when approved, will cover the procedure for a kidney transplant, a peritoneal dialysis, and a hemodialysis,” he said, citing records from the Department of Health (DOH) has so far recorded over 50,000 kidney patients nationwide from the 25,000 in 2016.
The consolidated bill entitled “A comprehensive renal replacement therapy (RRT) for patients with end-stage renal disease in a national, regional, and provincial government hospitals and increasing the Philhealth package rate for renal replacement and increasing members and appropriating funds thereof” is hoped to be passed the soonest, especially considering the urgency of the law that relates to the existence of the life and survival of the thousands of patients.
The bill’s approval will delete the 90 dialysis sessions ceiling of the Philhealth coverage and will be replaced with completely free sessions. Some patients undergo two sessions a week or a total of 96 sessions a year. Those who require three sessions weekly will need 144 sessions annually, while to a number of patients, four sessions a week is needed, making the requirement 182 sessions a year.
Such scenario makes it difficult for a patient or his family to produce a minimum of PHP202,400 to live for the whole year, specifically for those requiring four sessions a week.
Go said he had asked Dr. Ricardo Ruñez, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) medical director, to accommodate the dialysis patients despite their lack of Philhealth coverage.
“Sayang naman kung nakapag dialysis sila ng eight months tapos hihinto dahil wala ng Philhealth kaya kinausap ko si Dr. Ruñez na i-accommodate sila (It would be a waste if after eight months of continuous treatment, they would stop because they no longer have a Philhealth coverage. I already talked to Dr. Ruñez to accommodate them),” Go said, saying skipping the proceedures could lead to a patient’s death.
The lawmaker added he had also requested the Department of Health (DOH) to allow indigent dialysis patients to undergo the treatment even after consuming their Philhealth coverage, as they are covered by the “no balance billing”, another measure to address the current situation pending the bill’s approval.
Go further said his office is willing to help and accommodate the other patients under his medical assistance support if only to make sure that they would not skip their treatment.
He added he would be relaying to the congressmen of the other provinces in the Cordillera, Pangasinan, La Union, and Ilocos to also extend aid, as over 200 of the dialysis patients at the BGHMC are from other provinces and regions near Baguio.
“Ang atin pong opisina ay open po sa inyong lahat. Kung kailangan niyo po ng tulong, tayo po ay nagkaroon na ng go signal sa atin pong DOH at BGH na ipagpatuloy na natin itong ating dialysis treatment (Our office is open to all. If you need help, we have already given a go signal to the DOH and BGH for us to continue our dialysis treatment).”
Aside from the available remedial measures, the city government also allocates PHP9 million annually for BGHMC on top of the medical assistance available from the city councilors.
Ramon Dacawi, adviser of the group of dialysis patients and free treatment advocates, relayed that there are a number of patients who die before Christmas because they have no money to pay for the additional sessions they need, after consuming the 90 sessions covered by Philhealth.
He said some even resort to multiple addresses only to beg congressmen and officials from other provinces for financial aid and allow them or their families to finance the sessions not covered by Philhealth.
It was learned that in Baguio alone, there are about 900 dialysis patients from Baguio, Cordillera provinces, Pangasinan, and La Union. Only 417 of them are accommodated at BGHMC, since only 30 machines available in the hospital. Out of that number, only 253 are Baguio residents.
“I have one advise, please do not give up… There is no reason for dying but there is reason for hoping,” Go told the patients and their families.
The oldest dialysis patient recorded in the city is 98 years old, while the youngest is a 13-year-old girl.
The free dialysis treatment campaign was also earlier supported by Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar.
The campaign, which was launched in January 2017, came as the number of cases in the city has shot up. Former city information office chief and veteran newsman Ramon Dacawi, a dialysis patient himself, started the campaign as president of the Baguio media umbrella organization Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC), gathering signatures to support a proposed bill in Congress.