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Fighting for RH

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In the objective of elevating as a state responsibility the need to disseminate information and provide services for reproductive health care, the RH bill is strongly supported not only by women advocates in Davao City but also of some church groups.

As we have to be consistent with our assertion that reproductive health care must be the responsibility of the national government, our local government has not been remiss in its duty to promote reproductive health as we have already approved the Women Health Care Clinic Ordinance of Davao City in 2010. As such, the implementation of programs regarding reproductive health must be undertaken by our City Health Office, in partnership with other related offices in the local government.

In discussing the salient points of the RH Bill, I laud the proposed promulgation of minimum RH standards for public lying-in clinics and hospitals but as the case is in Davao City, almost 90% of such lying-in clinics are privately-owned and a regulation, as well as mechanisms for accreditation of such should be in place at the soonest.

On the issue of Employers’ Responsibilities, where they are obliged to ensure proper protection of women workers handling or working with chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm, this is not yet widely practiced in the city because many employers do not feel obliged to monitor pregnant working employees among their workforce and ensure that they are provided paid half-day prenatal medical leaves.

These paid prenatal medical leaves shall be reimbursable from the SSS or GSIS, ideally. But I am sure that in the proper time, we can work on this with the full participation of both private and public employers all over the city.

Mothers with infants and preschool children. Barangay day care centers should prioritize enrollment of infants and preschool children, teenagers, as well as mothers who need to find work for their family’s economic survival or working mothers.

We are having difficulties with Sexual and Reproductive Health programs for persons with disabilities (PWDs) as this takes special considerations, set-up and mechanisms. City and Municipalities must ensure that barriers to reproductive health services for persons with disabilities are obliterated by: A) providing physical access, and resolving transportation and proximity issues to clinics, hospitals and places where public health education is provided, contraceptives are sold or distributed or other places where reproductive health services are provided.

B) adapting examination tables and other laboratory procedures to the needs and conditions of persons with disabilities; b) increasing access to information and communication materials on sexual and reproductive health in Braille, large print, simple language, and pictures; C) providing continuing education on inclusion rights of persons with disabilities among health-care providers; and D) undertaking activities to raise awareness and address misconceptions among the general public on the stigma and their lack of knowledge on the sexual and reproductive health needs and rights of persons with disabilities.

Mental health services as essential component of Reproductive Health Care Programs. Mental health is related to many aspects of Sexual and Reproductive Health. These include, among others, perinatal depression and suicide, mental health and psychological consequences of gender-based violence, or HIV/AIDS, feelings of loss and guilt after miscarriage, stillbirth, or unsafe abortion. So far, we lack local data on these except on HIV/AIDS cases and our city does not even have enough number of psychologists.

However, we are faring well in matters of Sexuality and Reproductive Health Education. Regular educational seminars and activities on sexuality and reproductive health are being implemented by public health centers, the costs for which should be sourced from the LGU GAD budget.

But we cannot yet ascertain how many barangays devote their GAD budget for such undertakings and a need to reorient barangay officials in order for this to be realized.

Another point is that the capabilities of lying-in clinics and public hospitals to counsel women and couples with infertility problems must be enhanced. Fertility work up programs are not yet the priority in Davao City but such, in the context of reproductive health, must be included and implemented in at least one tertiary public hospital per city.

Making reproductive health procedures affordable and accessible to marginalized women of menopausal or post-menopausal age is part of our local ordinance’s thrusts. By far, we have regular health clinics and medical missions that give free pap smears. Other related reproductive health procedures required by women of menopausal or post-menopausal age are not yet that affordable and accessible especially to the city’s marginalized women. It should be considered among the medical procedures that can be applied for health financing through the PhilHealth.

Programs for women with cancers of the reproductive system. Marginalized women seeking medical treatments for any cancer of the reproductive system should be eligible for PhilHealth financing for such treatments. They and their families must be supported through educational and counselling programs at public hospitals.

A gray area would be research on reprohealth issues, as the city is yet to beef up its capacities for funding related researches on fibromyalgia and other relevant health issues affecting women’s reproductive health.

The proposed Pro Bono Services for Indigent Women has not been included in the local RH ordinance. But it is very ideal that private and non-government reproductive health care service providers, including but not limited to gynecologists and obstetricians, are mandated to provide at least 200 hours annually of reproductive health services ranging from providing information and education, to rendering medical services free of charge to indigent and low income patients, especially to pregnant adolescents.

Now, more than ever, we have to see the urgency of passing the RH Bill at the soonest time possible. As we are raising support for more advocates to lobby its passage and solicit more support from oppositors and advocates alike, let us be mindful that in Davao City, maternal mortality death rate is at 130, 120 and 107 deaths from 2007-2009 alone. Per 2009 statistics, Davao City has a total HIV (+) of 53 cases; 40 male & 13 female; age bracket of 19 to 44 years old. Sixteen (16) deaths were already recorded from this data.

The Davao City Health Office, in our aim to have it direct its focus on reproductive health concerns, needs our support for it to do the job of addressing repro health issues comprehensively. (The author is a member of the Davao City Council. She chairs the Committee on Women, Children and Family Relations.)




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