CHR exec wants right to maternal health protected even during pandemic
MANILA, Philippines – Women and children should be given access to maternal health measures even with the existing health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Commission on Human Rights (CHR) commissioner said on Wednesday.
Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said CHR’s stand comes amid reports that a woman from Caloocan City who recently gave birth died after six hospitals refused to attend to her — with one private hospital supposedly asking for a downpayment before being admitted.
At the very least, Dumpit said that the Department of Health (DOH) should ensure uninterrupted access to sexual and reproductive health services, and to provide “clean and separate facilities for childbirth and neonatal care”.
“Even with challenges brought about by the COVID-19, the right to health of women and children must continue to be protected. International and domestic laws are replete with provisions that mandate the protection of maternal and infant health and the prevention of mortality occasioned by childbirth,” Dumpit said in a statement.
“As the Gender Ombud under the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710) and pursuant to the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (10354), we urge the [DOH] to issue appropriate protocols and guidelines for all health care facilities in attending to the needs of pregnant mothers and babies,” she added.
Last April 27, expectant mother Katherine Bulatao chose to give birth at their house with the help of a midwife instead of doing so in a hospital to avoid being infected with the coronavirus.
After her baby was born, the midwife told her relatives to bring her to a hospital because she was bleeding. However, small hospitals urged her to be transferred to a larger hospital, but a private medical institution allegedly sought a downpayment of P30,000.
According to Dumpit, who handles CHR’s gender equality and women rights committee, there are pregnant women who have refused to make prenatal check-ups out of fear that they may contract the latest coronavirus strain.
She says that while it is important to solve the most pressing issue — which is COVID-19 — it must be noted that there are other health concerns totally unrelated to the disease.
“Pregnant mothers and newborn babies are among those who are highly susceptible to infectious diseases, including COVID-19. In disease outbreaks […] the tendency to channel resources to address the most immediate problem – treating COVID-19 patients and stemming the transmission of the virus – may affect access to maternal and infant health services,” Dumpit explained.
“The fear of being infected with the novel coronavirus also deters pregnant women from going to health care facilities for checkups and even deliveries. Some hospitals and doctors have been utilizing technology to do prenatal checkups, but studies show the difficulty in tracking high-risk pregnancies in virtual consultations,” she added.
Authorities from the Department of Health (DOH) and other health institutions have asked people with medical concerns not related to COVID-19 to avoid visiting hospitals to limit the spread of the disease.
Measures such as telemedicine and online consultations have been set up to limit interaction with health practitioners, who appear to be most vulnerable to COVID-19. However, certain conditions like pregnancy check-ups which require ultrasound scans, force pregnant women to visit hospitals.
DOH said that as of Wednesday, there are now 8,212 patients infected with the coronavirus around the country, of which 558 have died and 1,023 have recovered. Worldwide, over 3.04 million individuals have been infected, while at least 210,913 have died from the disease and over 889,406 have recovered from it.
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