Press Release
January 14, 2010

Legarda calls for safer hospitals, buildings

Sen. Loren Legarda today called on the government to protect public and private hospitals against earthquakes in the aftermath of the strong temblor that rocked Haiti and caused widespread devastation and loss of lives in the Central America nation.

"Hospitals and other health facilities are critical public infrastructures especially when disaster strikes and victims need emergency services and medical care. Therefore, they should be disaster-proof and disaster-resilient," said Loren, the chairperson of the Senate committee on demography and health.

"The country should have learned lessons from the 1990 Luzon earthquake. We saw how the earthquake ruined the City of Baguio. We saw how Baguio General Hospital, along with other hospitals in nearby provinces, crumbled from its impact and failed to perform its role as a refuge and haven for the injured victims," Loren said.

"Hospitals should not only be structurally sound but also capable of dealing with all types of disasters. Health facilities and all health workers able to function fully, efficiently, and effectively during emergencies," Loren asserted.

Loren pointed out that based on international studies, disaster-proofing a hospital or health facility would add only 4 percent to the cost of construction. "This cost is nothing compared to the risk of destruction of infrastructure and property and death of patients and staff during a disaster, and the equally high health, economic and development impacts in the aftermath," she said.

Building the resilience of the health sector to disasters, Loren said, "brings the double benefit of saving lives and achieving our development goals." The national government, local governments and the private sector, who have invested much resources in the country's health care system, should therefore share common responsibilities in running it.

Loren urged Congress to do its part in making the country's health sector able to withstand any natural catastrophe. "The fiscal policies of government should also be geared towards helping private-run hospitals improve their structural integrity and their facilities. The government can grant tax incentives to hospitals that invest in risk reduction-related structures, equipment and facilities," she said.

Loren also suggested that Congress revisit the National Building Code to determine whether there is a need to update its provisions to meet the requirements of effective disaster risk reduction.

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