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Angara: Not enough health workers to care for senior citizens



Senator Sonny Angara has expressed alarm over the lack of professionals specializing in the care of the elderly in the Philippines, which puts to question the country's ability to meet the healthcare needs of its adult population.

According to Angara, a champion of senior citizens' rights and welfare, the country is facing a serious shortage of geriatricians or medical doctors who are specially trained to evaluate and manage the unique healthcare needs and treatment preferences of older people.

Citing a report from Retirement and Healthcare Coalition, Angara said there were only 140 geriatric doctors operating in the country and without specialized geriatric nurses.

"Assuming that there are around 8 million senior citizens in the country, a geriatric doctor is tasked to cater to the varied and immediate needs of around 57,000 elderlies," Angara said. "This means that if they wanted to attend to everyone, a doctor will have to see around 150 senior citizen patients for 365 days straight."

Out of 140 or so geriatric doctors across the country, the senator further said, about half do not have actual clinic or hospital experience, largely due to lack of facilities where health professionals can train for this specialty.

"There needs to be a venue where our geriatricians can hone their skills," Angara said.

In the Philippines, only St. Luke's Medical Center (SLMC) has a dedicated Geriatric Center. "And quite frankly, hospitals like SLMC are not the kind of facility that the elderly in the marginal sector could easily access," he lamented.

According to Angara, this situation bolsters the need to strengthen the capability of the state-run National Center for Geriatric Health (NCGH), the country's first center for aged care which was established in 2010 as a training and research facility for geriatric medicine and gerontology.

Angara said the proposal to institutionalize the Philippine Institute of Aging--a measure initiated by his father, the late Senate President Edgardo Angara--should be pursued in order to improve research related to older Filipinos to promote their welfare and needs.

He admitted that he inherited this advocacy for the elderly from his father, the reason he pushed for the expansion of the Senior Citizens Act in 2010 to include the value-added tax (VAT) exemption on particular goods and services and the monthly stipend of PHP500 to all indigent senior citizens.

The senator's father was credited for the implementation of the Senior Citizens Act of 1992, also known as the Angara Law.

Now, the younger Angara is fighting for the proposed Expanded Social Pension Act, which seeks to double the amount and widen the scope to cover those without any form of pension.

www.senate.gov.ph