A MAJOR concern of the elderlies like me is our health issues; because, as the joke goes, our “spare parts, once broken, are hard to repair or replace,” and even they it could be, it would cost “an arm and a leg” to do so and may even cost your entire retirement benefits. It is woeful for those who have been out of work, and it would do well for those planning to retire to consider saving for the rainy days.
The cost of maintaining one’s good health increases as the years go by and we, the elderly, who value life more as the span narrows down, must now develop and observe a healthy lifestyle. The saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” resonates louder with the passing of the years and with each waking day, a blessing.
I remember our formative or “rebel” years when we acted like life on earth was eternal – from the time when we were with our liked-minded pseudo-intellectual “barkada” discussing the western and eastern thoughts, scientific theories, the political governments and philosophies that cultivated the student activism in us, to legal precepts, judicial decisions, decrees, that we mixed with our intoxicating years acting like gods, as time passed on through post war era, habeas corpus, martial law, extreme typhoons, volcanic eruptions, severe earthquakes, people power revolutions, COVID-19 pandemic and maybe more of nature’s badgering, nagging us to the ultimate truth that life on earth is ephemeral.
Having a health care system lessens our anxiety that may lead to illness or add to the stress of living. For our part, we are fortunate to reside in Barcelona, as permanent residents and thus given the best health care system that I have so far experienced. Ambulances are readily available to pick you up in case of emergency situations. Once at the emergency room, the patient is attended to without too many questions because the medical record of the patient is contained in a card which is read in a monitor in the room.
As for other medical issues, a resident only has to make an appointment with his family doctor. In urgent cases, doctors on duty are available to deal with it. Executive check-ups, minor and major operations are scheduled by the assigned family doctor who, in turn, refers you to medical specialists and surgeons. Before the date of the operation, the patient is given sets of instructions to follow before being admitted to the hospital. A day before the operation, the patient is admitted and prepared for the procedure. Post operation is monitored even after the patient has been released from the hospital.
We noticed that there are several young doctors, physicians and nurses now who could speak not only Spanish but English and some other languages. The hospitals and clinics are quiet and very sanitary, modern and hi-tech equipment and facilities are used. There is a system of attending to patients and companions in an orderly fashion where they are seated in a waiting area until they are individually called and requested to proceed to an assigned consultation room where the doctor and nurse await them. After the consultation, prescriptions may be given by the doctor and the medicines could be bought at the pharmacy at a very minimal price, some even free.
The medical procedures and operations are free of charge including the hospitalizations. Even maintenance medicines cost very minimal, as long as the prescriptions are updated by the family doctor who makes the assessment of the patient’s health condition at least annually.
The Spanish government’s major concern is the health and well-being of its people because they are the engines of growth. All of its citizens and the members of their families are automatically given these health benefits as soon as they are registered. The country is also well advanced in the field of medicine. There are new experiments in medicine especially for the cure of advanced stages of cancer. A friend, who was in the fourth stage of lung cancer and was given six months to live, was enrolled two years ago on an experimental medicine. He is still surviving and looking healthy, last time I saw him last week. He also receives monthly stipend plus food supplements and a caregiver paid for by the drug company. This week he is scheduled to take a different drug.
The Philippines has a long way to go in reaching this stage of public health welfare. But the PhilHealth system is a big step towards reaching this goal. But perhaps the government should attend to improving the health benefits, facilities of hospitals, health centres and clinics instead of investing the budget or savings for health to a Maharlika Fund or whatever the government may call it. After all, we were taught ages ago “that health is wealth”.