Cancer kills four Filipinos every hour. But with early diagnosis and access to quality treatment and care, this disease can be better managed. Beyond its impact on the patient’s life, it also affects their family, friends and community.
That’s why Hope From Within has focused its conversation series on cancer, Tita Hope speaks, on #UsapangCancerCareFunding. For its fourth episode, national leaders and health experts came together to talk about the financial burden and challenges faced by cancer patients, and opportunities to ease the financial burden to help Filipino patients better cope with the disease.
With the passage of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) and the Universal Health Care Law (UHC), all cancer patients and cancer survivors, regardless of cancer stage, age, race, gender or religion, can expect more meaningful and hopeful events. tomorrows. However, access to finance remains elusive for patients. Personal expenses remain high.
Most cancers are long-term in nature that cause repeated financial hardship for families, intensifying the poverty-disease cycle. Ill-treated diseases deepen poverty by leading to loss of health, untreated disease, higher morbidity, loss of income and further impoverishment.
“Cancer treatment is catastrophic. If you get hit, it not only devastates you because of the possibility of dying sooner, but it devastates you financially. You would like to catch it early and you are doing all you can to do so, but it will eat up a lot of your money, your livelihood,” said Dr Marife Yap, senior technical adviser at Thinkwell, a research organization international focus on health financing.
In his discussion of a recent Thinkwell report, commissioned by MSD on cancer spending in six countries, Dr Yap pointed out that to achieve an effective response to cancer, health system functions must be strengthened – management, funding, service delivery and resource generation, across the six components of the health system – prevention and secondary prevention, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, rehabilitation and palliative care.
When any one component is not adequately managed, the entire response is at risk, leading to premature death, unnecessary pain, and wasted resources. Although addressing all aspects of the continuum is a daunting task, the Philippine government has taken the first step in this direction by including cancer care in recent reforms aimed at achieving universal health coverage.
The report also pointed to low usage of the Philhealth Z-benefit package due to “onerous requirements, slow reimbursement, limited and restrictive coverage.”
“It’s a good impetus to look at cancer across the continuum so that we can really achieve our desire, which is to have fewer people die from cancer. For those who do develop cancer,
they are cared for not because they have money, but because the government and the private sector are partnering to provide them with the capacity and ability to make their lives easier. More importantly, we hope these numbers continue to decline as fewer and fewer people develop cancer. Those with cancer can be diagnosed earlier and have higher cure rates,” Yap added.
Government leaders play an important role in prioritizing health services for Filipinos. As legislators and enforcers, they play a key role in implementing the full benefit of existing health care laws like NICCA and CSU.
In his message, Senator Panfilo Lacson promised that “in an effort to help our people, especially our poor compatriots who cannot afford PET-CT nuclear scanners, I am prioritizing our programs to make this intervention affordable, available and accessible medical care. This representation is committed to ensuring that the lives and safety of our compatriots remain at the top of our priority.
Senior proponent of the Malasakit Center Act, Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, pointed out that the Malasakit Center is a one-stop-shop for all the financial assistance provided by different government agencies such as the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to serve indigent patients for treatment or hospitalization.
“Cancer always impacts not only the health of the patient, but ultimately the financial situation of the individual and their family. The aim of the Malasakit Center is to help our fellow Filipinos with their hospital needs. Since this is signed into law, the services it provides will remain,” noted Senator Go.
Asked about his recommendation to improve access to care and treatment, Senator Richard Gordon said: “The government should ensure that we have good coverage, good preventive suggestions, good anti-stress measures such as parks and playgrounds. Access to medical experts and early detection are important. It is important to provide access to drugs; people should know where to go. There should be a 24/7 center to refer patients to the right hospital.
In her brief speech, Senator Risa Hontiveros expressed her commitment to supporting NICCA funding.
“Cancer treatment must remain a national priority. As part of our push and support for NICCA, we will monitor the creation and deployment of cancer care centers as well as program budget requirements during Senate deliberation. With proper laws and funding, cancer is a battle that thousands of Filipinos can win,” Senator Hontiveros said.
As one of NICCA’s supporters, House Health Congress Speaker Angelina Tan, echoed, “The burden of cancer is real and adequate funding is key. We badly need champions for health in government, especially those who will champion the cause of scaling up essential programs and increasing investments for strong cancer prevention, better screening, rapid diagnosis and accurate, rapid and optimal treatment, appropriate palliative care and pain management, survival and late effects
management and rehabilitation as well as making cancer treatment and care more equitable and affordable for all, especially for disadvantaged, poor and marginalized Filipinos.
Recalling their family’s first-hand experience in treating pancreatic cancer, Senatorial Aspirant Dr. Minguita Padilla noted that “patients and their families will do almost anything to avail themselves of a cure for cancer. But financial constraints almost always dash their hopes. Cancer is the only disease that can turn a comfortable life into a difficult and uncertain one. To be able to fund cancer care, we need to think outside the box. 2022 is a year of hope. And that hope is in our hands.
The Department of Health (DOH) has taken steps to implement the provisions of the two-year-old Cancer Act and CSU. According to DOH Cancer Division Program Manager Dr. Clarito Cairo, current funding for cancer care and patient support includes the Philhealth Z-benefit package, 148 Malasakit Centers, 27 DOH Access Hospitals and the Cancer Assistance Fund.
“We have a continuum and scope of cancer programs. In the end-to-end continuum, we have access to the right information. This will help our patients get the right information about their disease, the organizations to approach and the multidisciplinary team. Many think they only need one oncologist when in fact cancer is a multidisciplinary team approach,” explained Dr Cairo.
Dr. Cairo also noted that in addition to providing free drugs, the cancer assistance fund was recently expanded to include screening and diagnostic services for cancer patients.
Patient groups have been at the forefront of cancer care reforms. After the passage of NICCA, a new era of lobbying began.
Mr. Paul Perez of Cancer Coalition Philippines welcomed the adoption of health related laws. He said, “It’s a beautiful law. It encompasses everything. There are also so many moving parts. We just hope it goes faster. Cancer cannot wait. We are very committed to seeing patients benefit from the law.
For his part, Dr. Jose Ramon Albert, policy researcher and colorectal cancer patient, could not help but express his frustration at the slow progress in implementation. “Let’s do it quickly. We have no sense of urgency. Even for the processes of getting help, it’s not clear to patients. Simplify processes. You expect the results to be quick,” he stressed.
Cancer is a complex disease that challenges a country’s health system and pathways to progressive inclusion. A defining characteristic of most cancers and many other chronic diseases is the need for a series of interventions along the treatment continuum and over the course of illness.
Speaking on behalf of his fellow medical oncologists, Dr. Bil Ramos, Past President of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncologists, shared the medical community’s underlined commitment to continue advocating for an “awareness lobby and adequate funding”. by the implementation of for the implementation of NICCA. “We join the cancer awareness and literacy campaign for primary and secondary cancer prevention knowing that detecting lesions at an early stage will lead to longer survival.”
“We can win this battle against cancer. Winner of the LGU National Champions. Support to UHC, local health board leadership. Iparing anging boses para in paggawa ng planing LGU, kasama na fist cancer. Malaki ang puwersa and impluwensiya. Gimitin po natin ang pagkawala ing mahal sa buhay para lumaban. Let’s do it to honor their memory. Create a new
champ for the pangako ng NICCA na affordable cancer care for all are matupad naadded Ms. Carmen Auste, Cancer Coalition Philippines.
When assessing the scope of effective interventions offered for specific cancers along the continuum, insight is gained into both the depth and breadth of the entire program, as well as the balance between prevention and treatment. Effective coverage requires both permanent revenue streams and capacity building commitments. It’s a long way to go and a race in time. Cancer care is a collective effort and every Filipino has a role to play.
Hope from Within (HFW) is a multi-stakeholder cancer advocacy campaign led by MSD in the Philippines, committed to renewing hope and strengthening the fight for Filipino cancer patients. To learn more about advocacy, visit www.hopefromwithin.org or follow the official Hope Frow Within Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Hopefromwithinph/.