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As regular readers know, the second half of 2016 was filled with a lot of medical things for me. I had a heart attack in June 2016, and a quadruple heart bypass in November.
My experiences taught me a lot about hospitalization in the Philippines.
Firstly, I cannot stress it enough, if you are going to be in the Philippines – either living in the Philippines or just vacationing here for a few months, sign up for PhilHealth! PhilHealth is the government health care insurance. For just P2400 per year (less than $50 per year) your entire family will be covered! This is really a no brainer, the cost is so low, and for many types of sickness the benefits are large! For some types of sicknesses, the benefits are low – 50% or so, but for high cost illnesses the benefits can be huge. Remember, PhilHealth is coverage for hospitalization…. if you are an outpatient there is no coverage.
In the past 12 months, PhilHealth paid out nearly P2 Million for my healthcare, all for a premium of just P2400, that is hard to beat!
In the Philippines, there are basically two types of hospitals.
- Government Hospitals
- Private Hospitals
Government Hospitals are often considered to be low end places. This is not always correct. For some types of sicknesses, Government Hospitals are actually better than the best of the Private Hospitals. In almost every instance a Government Hospital is less expensive than a Private Hospital.
When I first learned that I would be needing Heart Surgery, I decided to do it at a Government Hospital, mostly because the cost difference was huge. Later, though, I was able to raise a larger amount of money than I thought would be possible, so I decided to consider moving the surgery to a private hospital. I talked to my cardiologist. He practices at both the best private hospital in Davao and also at the public hospital in Davao. I told him that I was able to come up with more money than expected, so what did he feel were the benefits of having surgery at the private hospital compared to the public hospital. I was shocked at what he told me! Given that he practices at both hospitals, and that he stood to make more money if I had the surgery at the private hospital, his answer came as a big surprise.
The Hospitals that I was considering
The choices that I was considering for my surgery and hospitalization were SPMC (Southern Philippines Medical Center) vs. DDH (Davao Doctor’s Hospital).
SPMC is a government hospital. It was formerly known as DMC (Davao Medical Center), but the name was changed some time back.
DDH is a private hospital (for profit) and is considered by most to be the best hospital in the Southern Philippines.
These two hospitals are the only two hospitals in Davao City that have dedicated Heart Center facilities, thus they were the two places that I considered.
What the Doctor told me
When I asked the doctor about the difference in the level of care, the equipment available at each hospital, etc, and the cost difference, as I said, his answer was shocking to me. The doctor told me that the level of care was similar at each hospital. He went on to tell me that the cost was significantly lower at SPMC (half or less!), but the next part was the most shocking. He said that the equipment at SPMC was the “BMW” of heart equipment. He said that the equipment at DDH was the “Toyota”. He said that if he were the one having surgery, he would feel much better with the equipment at SPMC.
Based on this information alone, I chose to do my surgery at SPMC.
What I later learned
After checking into SPMC and while I was preparing for my surgery, I got talking with a different doctor and a nurse there, and they told me some other reassuring news. Something that, again, surprised me greatly. They told me that on an average year, SPMC does around 300 cases of heart surgery. DDH, on the other hand, does as few as 1 such case per year, and up to maybe a half dozen or so max.
So, when I thought about this I realized that the government hospital offered better equipment, a lower price, and also a lot more experience in doing open heart surgery! It was better all around, based on the things that I was told by people who are in the know.
Weigh your options
Now, I am not saying that for every type of sickness or for every treatment that the government hospitals are better than the private hospitals. That is not even close to what I am saying. But, what I am saying is that it is something to look into on a case by case basis! Why pay more when it is very possible that you can get superior treatment for less?
In the case of open heart surgery, it would seem that the government hospital was far superior. I know that my experience of having a heart bypass operation at SPMC went smoothly. I was treated well. I had a nice hospital room, good nurses and doctors, and “enjoyed” my stay there (as much as you can enjoy having surgery!).
A lot of people look down on public hospitals in the Philippines. I used to do that. But, I have learned that in some cases the public hospital is superior to anything else out there! It is something to think about if you need health care.
Another thing to consider carefully is that if you are out in the Province, the level of healthcare is much different than if you are in a large city. Really, for the best medical care available you should consider doing it in Manila, Cebu City or Davao City. Other cities will not have the same quality of facilities, and if you are out in the Provinces, the level of facilities will not be what you need for a major health crisis.
But, let me repeat… get PhilHealth! It might just save your life!