Press Release
July 13, 2009

As AH1N1 Virus spreads in the provinces

Senator Edgardo J. Angara today promoted the National Telehealth System of medicine in the country as cases of AH1N1 virus spread in the provinces saying that this will aid in the fast prevention of the dreaded disease especially in rural areas.

"In the Philippines, not only do we have shortage of doctors, there is also a problem in terms of access to proper and adequate health care system due to the seeming concentration of health professionals in urban areas. For a country that exports doctors and nurses, the Philippines suffers from a low 1:15,000 doctor-to-population ratio, more than double the ideal 1:6,000 and a far cry from the US ratio of 1:150," said Angara who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance and authored pioneering laws such as the PhilHealth Act and the Senior Citizens' Act.

He added, "Worse, majority of these doctors reside in urban areas such as National Capital Region (NCR) while there are far less health professionals who are in the provinces, such as the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It is very alarming especially now that there is a dreadful virus spreading. The lack of access to proper health care system even worsens the situation."

Angara told that access to health-care significantly affects the quality of life in a region's population. For instance, while the child-mortality rate in the NCR is eight per 1,000 children below five, the figure in CAR is more than double, with 20 deaths for every 1,000 children. The child-mortality rate in ARMM is worse, more than four times the NCR statistics at 33 deaths for every thousand children.

The National Telehealth System, a project first piloted by University of the Philippines Manila in 1998, imparts clinical information and education to distant areas using information and communications technologies (ICT). Through computers and the Internet, supplementary expert care can be delivered to far-flung provinces where health-care specialists are scarce.

"There is an urgent need to increase expert health-care services in the countryside. Fortunately, advances in technology provide a means to overcome personnel and regional constraints through out-of-the-box solutions, such as the National Telehealth System," Angara added.

Angara added that in 2009 P100 million was allotted to expand the reach and scope of the National Telehealth System. Through ICT, the National Telehealth System will allow remote consultation with experts in the Philippine General Hospital regarding trauma and poison cases, and in determining and responding to epidemics. An electronic health-record system for poison and trauma patients shall also be developed to provide relevant information and health education to the public, and facilitate continuous learning for health professionals.

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