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Health care accessibility in the Philippines

Updated on October 10, 2013

Your health in general is as important as your safety. This hub will tell you how convenient it is to have your health condition checked while staying in the Philippines. The information you can get here will definitely be useful in case of medical emergencies.

About this hub

You might be reading this because you or someone you know in the Philippines is planning to avail of medical services there. This hub serves as a general source of information regarding how to avail medical services in the country.

Where to find medical clinics

When in need of medical consultation or treatment, you will most definitely think of a hospital as as the first place to go. You should consider going to a medical clinic first, unless your problem is severe. Besides, the hospital environment puts you at risk of acquiring infectious diseases.

Not at all times, the hospital is the best place to go when in need of medical services. There are several types of places in the country where you can get convenient, quick and cheap medical services.

  1. Beside streets - Beside busy streets, you will likely find a medical clinic operated or owned by one or more consultant doctors. These clinics may not be fully-equipped with the necessary tools to detect and treat any disease related to the doctors' specializations, but they definitely offer inexpensive services situated conveniently near your residence.
  2. Inside malls - Most malls in the country now have at least one medical clinic. Bigger malls have several clinics in them. These places are more equipped, primarily because of the number of people who are potential clients of medical services. Medical clinics in these places do not offer cheap services, but they will do their best to gain their clients' trust and satisfaction. Besides, for any medical emergency that could happen inside a mall, patients no longer need to go outside the building to obtain urgent treatment.
  3. Around hospitals - Consultant doctors who work in public or private hospitals have medical clinics around those hospitals. This makes an extra source of income for them. Their services will likely be expensive and their consultation hours inconvenient, but they have all the knowledge and access to equipment to detect and treat most diseases.

Same as with medical clinics, pharmacies are abundant and may be found in the locations specified above.

A picture of the front of the Philippine General Hospital, one of the few public hospitals in the country handled by the University of the Philippines in Manila
A picture of the front of the Philippine General Hospital, one of the few public hospitals in the country handled by the University of the Philippines in Manila | Source

Types of hospitals

There are three types of hospitals in the country. They vary mostly by expenses and quality of service.

  1. Private - In the Philippines, the most numerous hospitals are privately-owned. A private hospital will offer you more convenient, faster service by friendly, well-trained employees in a clean, elegant environment. However, availing of medical services in a private hospital will likely cost you 2 to 5 times more than when you did the same in a public hospital. Popular consultant doctors in the country will very often offer their services in private hospitals, so you have to spend a lot of money if you want to receive expert service.
  2. Public - For indigent citizens of the country, there are still a few public hospitals for them. The services in a public hospital may be too slow (the waiting time may take up to 6 hours during peak times), the medical staff may be unapproachable (they may be too busy handling so many patients), and the place itself may not look well-maintained (because the huge number of patients make it difficult for the maintenance team to do their job efficiently), but the cost of medical consultation is very low, and may even be free!
  3. Semi-private - These hospitals share some important features of private and public hospitals. You won't easily distinguish these from public hospitals unless you ask for their services yourself.

The brand logo of Mercury Drug Corporation, the leading drugstore selling branded and generic drugs in the Philippines
The brand logo of Mercury Drug Corporation, the leading drugstore selling branded and generic drugs in the Philippines | Source

Where to find pharmacies

After you came from a medical clinic or hospital for a consultation, the doctor has very likely given you a drug prescription. You can fill the prescription at these points:

  1. Beside medical clinics or hospitals. Businessmen know that maximum profit comes from places where the demand for their products is highest, so they will place pharmacy stores at places where they will sell the most - closer to hospitals and clinics. You will not need to go anywhere else to buy your medicines.
  2. Inside malls. If you need another set of medicines, you can find pharmacy stores inside malls. They sell more than just medicine - you will be able to buy non-medicinal products that will benefit your health.
  3. Beside busy streets. The number of pharmacy stores are more than those of medical clinics near major roads. They may also sell common goods, such as canned food and beverages. Pharmacies in these places differ from those inside malls, in terms of size and number of types of products sold.

A pharmacy may also be generic or branded.

  1. Generic - Generic pharmacies sell medicines and drugs that are produced in the country in large quantities, and therefore cheap. If a pharmacy is generic, it usually does not sell branded products.
  2. Branded - Branded pharmacies sell medicines that are imported from other countries, therefore their products are expensive but are usually more effective. This type of pharmacy also sells generic products.

Tips to remember before going to a doctor for a consultation

Before planning to visit a medical clinic in the Philippines, remember that you are in another country (unless you are a Filipino too) and the situations vary from your country to some degree.

  1. Make a list of your symptoms since you started to become sick. The doctor may be truly an expert, but if you cannot tell him or her what you really feel in your body, he or she may not accurately diagnose whatever disease you may have.
  2. Try to recall anything you have eaten for the past few days. For many diseases, the food or drink that you have consumed may be one of the reasons why you acquired the disease. They may give the doctor additional necessary data to help you better.
  3. Bring any recent laboratory test results that you have. These will give your doctor even greater capability to diagnose your disease accurately.
  4. Go to the clinic early. Arriving in the clinic early will give you time to think about what you really need to tell the doctor. Also, if because of lack of time you ran quickly to the clinic just to meet the consultation hours of your doctor, your blood pressure might temporarily increase, slightly affecting the results.
  5. The doctor is busy. In most cases, you are not the only patient that the doctor has. He or she may not be able to give you all the time you need to tell him or her anything you want to say. Regardless of whether you went to a public or private clinic, the doctors have a lot of patients to attend to. Try to make your consultation session with the doctor take not more than 15 minutes, while making sure that you could tell everything that you believe the doctor needs to know about your symptoms.

From this location in northern Luzon, the nearest hospital is more than a hundred kilometers away.
From this location in northern Luzon, the nearest hospital is more than a hundred kilometers away.

How many Filipinos actually receive health care?

Not all residents of the Philippines receive adequate health care. Many do not have the money to do so, some are living in places without well-equipped medical centers nearby, and a few are just afraid of going to the doctor.

Because of those reasons, most Filipinos have learned to treat their diseases using self-medication, which includes herbal medicines (many Filipinos living in rural areas are herbalists or know one), diet rich in nutrients essential for recovery, adequate physical exercise and stress management, plus the hope that they will recover without ever needing a doctor.

What is your preference when availing of medical services?

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    • viking305 profile image

      L M Reid 2 years ago from Ireland

      That is something most of us do not take into account when planning a holiday.

      Your information about Health Care in the Philippines is very useful and interesting thank you