Aster DM Healthcare Brings “Compassionate Care” To PH

Saturday, December 12, 2015 Stef dela Cruz, MD 0 Comments

When one of the biggest medical companies in the world takes interest in our country and decides to set up shop here, what choice do we get except to say, “Hey, why not?” That’s why a month ago, I sat down and listened as Aster DM Healthcare shared with me and other members of the [traditional and new] media how they’re bringing “compassionate care” to the country, starting with Metro Manila.

Aster DM Healthcare – you’ve probably never heard of it before. I don’t blame you. It is surprising, however, that they’ve escaped our collective radars, given how they’re not exactly the kind of healthcare network merely staying in the fringes. After all, they are a conglomerate to contend with in the Middle East and also in India.

Aster DM Healthcare PHYep, ladies and gents, Goliath has come to visit David’s backyard.

Dear hospitals and medical institutions, are you feeling scared? Please have the emotional wherewithal to read this first before you suffer a panic attack. Wait until I tell you what Aster DM Healthcare has in store for everyone.


Aster DM Healthcare: Do we need them here?

On November 11, 2015, Aster DM Healthcare opened its first clinic in the Philippines. For me to explain to you what makes it a milestone, I need your undivided.

Aster DM Healthcare has its own little community – called the Aster Medical City – which happens to occupy a fort-acre island.

Okay, fine, it’s not at all “little”. They practically have their own island.

But here’s what takes the biscuit: their medical city is a quaternary care facility.

Yes, you read that right, quaternary. Here in the Philippines, we have hospitals that provide only up to the tertiary level of care.

Considering the quality of care Aster Medical City provides plus the size of the island they occupy, you now probably have a better gauge of what Aster DM Healthcare is capable of.

But why is Aster DM Healthcare’s subtle entrance into our healthcare landscape significant? Let’s take a quick look at something that happened just recently.


A peek at our own healthcare system

Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada publicly berated a doctor at the Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center (OMMC) after the MD told a mother to take her child to another hospital.

Estrada said the doctor’s “indifference to patients” may be considered an “act of sabotage”, given his explicit instructions to provide complete services to patients for free.

Well, what a heartless doctor, you might think. But then again, as is the case with many interesting stories, it’s not that simple. You see, the alleged reason behind the doctor’s request was the lack of functional laboratory equipment at OMMC.

doctorsWhen the hospital doesn’t have the resources to provide quality care for patients, is it the doctors’ fault? Whose fault is it? What can be done?

In a nutshell: The government fails to provide for the hospital; ergo, the hospital fails to meet public’s needs. Doctor and patient take the fall – they both fall flat on their faces, in fact – possibly resenting each other when they should be working together to overcome the hurdles brought about by a healthcare system that has too much room for improvement.

What. A. Mess.

But I digress. Suffice to say that given how inefficiently our country provides healthcare to those who need it, we sure could use a helping hand from a company who has quaternary tricks up its sleeve.


Problem identified, solution offered

You need solid figures? You got it. “There are 1,824 hospitals for 102 million Filipinos. There’s about one hospital bed for every 1,000 Filipinos,” said Joyce Socao-Alumno, Philippine Manager of Aster DM Healthcare.

“We have a 1.6 percent population growth annually but hospitals haven't grown in the last ten years. The supply is not growing at the same pace as the demand when it comes to healthcare.”

Alumno wasn’t done – it’s not only the patients, but also the healthcare professionals who are taking a hit. “We have a surplus of 400,000 nurses, with many underemployed in the BPO. Some countries, such as the US, UK, and Canada, have stopped hiring professionals from our country due to global recession.”

How ironic. We have too many nurses and too many patients, but not enough doctors or hospitals. It is, as Metallica once sang with such angst, sad but true.

It could all go sideways real quick. However, there’s a silver lining – hey, there always is. “The Philippines has a very young population with a median age of 23 years old.”

Part 2:
How the youth is our (economic) future

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!