Mindanao region health care system close to 50% mercury-free
by Sonia G. Astudillo & Faye Ferrer
General Santos City (9 November) -- A month after the September 2010 deadline for mercury phase-out in health care, Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia (HCWH-SEA) released a report documenting the mercury phase-out compliance of health care facilities and institutions in the country. The verdict for Mindanao region: "close to passing mark."
Out of the 497 hospitals in Mindanao region (Source: Philippine Hospital Association), only 269 responded to the survey (Refer to Table 1) and of this respondents, 230 (46%) are already phasing out mercury. (Refer to Table 2). This puts Mindanao ahead of Luzon with 444 (41%) hospital-respondents who are phasing out mercury out of the total 1,086 Luzon hospitals and 53 (20%) in Visayas out of the 268 hospitals.
"We are happy with this result," said Faye Ferrer, HCWH-SEA Program Officer for Mercury in Health Care. "Taking into consideration the geographical location of Mindanao which is far from the Department of Health central office, the turnout of respondents, as well as the close to 50% mercury phase-out status is exemplary."
"We however encourage the DoH not to be lax with this result. There is still another 50% that needs support in their mercury phase-out," Ferrer added. "We however would like to note that the dismal score of the other island groups may be attributed to the low return rate of the survey forms."
DoH-Administrative Order 2008-0021 mandates the gradual phase-out of mercury-containing devices in all health care facilities and institutions by September 2010. Early this year, HCWH-SEA conducted regional forum in 10 of the 15 regions in the country to disseminate the information to the health facilities.
The group conducted the survey from January to July and out of the 1,851 hospitals in the country, 717 hospitals and 107 rural health units responded.
What happens next?
Among the general provision of AO 21 is that health care facilities must immediately discontinue the distribution of mercury thermometers in their admission/discharge kits.
Of those surveyed, there are still 9 in Luzon, 4 in Visayas and zero in Mindanao who are distributing mercury thermometers.
"We encourage these hospitals to shun away from mercury and to choose the safe alternatives," said Ferrer. "From there comes another issue which is'where to store phased-out mercury devices?'"
From the survey, Mindanao has the highest number of in storage mercury thermometers, BP apparatus and fluorescent lights/bulbs.
The group presented the guidelines to interim storage of phased-out mercury devices in health care which is in a safe place within the hospital premises.
"We enjoin all health care facilities to take this issue seriously," said Ferrer. "Sanctions must not be the sole justification for phase-out."
A general provision of the AO mandates that health facilities applying for a renewal of License shall submit an inventory of all mercury-containing devices as well as a mercury elimination program. The PhilHealth on the other hand in its new benchbook added mercury-free as a requirement for its accreditation.
"At the end of the day, the question for health workers to ask is,'did we do our best in providing health care?'" said Ferrer. "If we are still using mercury, the answer is obvious. No, you have not done your best. But it's never too late to change."
HCWH is an international coalition of more than 470 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. For more information on HCWH-SEA, see www.noharm.org.ph. (HCWH/PIA-Caraga) [top]