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Choosing a Hospital in the Philippines

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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.

Davao Doctors Hospital

Davao Doctors Hospital

Tagalog Buddy

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!

Hospitals Choices

In the Philippines, there are basically two types of hospitals.

  1. Government Hospitals
  2. 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.

SPMC - Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao

SPMC – Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao

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!

Posted in

Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur. Bob is an American who lived in Mindanao from 2000 until 2019. Bob has now relocated back to the USA.

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Edgar A. Hew
Edgar A. Hew
4 years ago

Mentioning PhilHealth, I went to pay my annual premium today and was told that as a paying “member” for years and now a “senior” (age 65 now) I’m automatically and fully covered under their legislation (which has nothing to do with the ineligable Phils “senior discount”) and I don’t need to pay premiums anymore. They simply and seemingly normal with PhilHealth changed my status accordingly, I didn’t even know until today.

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  Edgar A. Hew

Always nice to get good news.

SteveB
SteveB
4 years ago

I signed up for PhilHealth yesterday here in Laguna province for 2017. I had also enrolled in 2016. I am a senior, I think (will be 62 in Feb). Prior to the holidays, the PhilHealth office told me that the cost was going up for foreigners to between P15,000 and P17,000 per year. They said the premiums “hadn’t been finalized for 2017 yet”… but they would be updated in January. I went back to the office on Jan 4th to enroll as quickly as possible in the event the price hadn’t been changed yet. I lucked out…they told me the… Read more »

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  SteveB

I have seen nothing from any official source about a price increase. My premiums are paid for the next 3 years. Also, I am covered under my wife’s account.

SteveB
SteveB
4 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

There is a lot of information disparity here. My wife is a Filipina and we asked about putting me on her PhilHealth Account. They told us (at two separate PhilHealth offices) that as a foreigner I wasn’t allowed to be on my wife’s account. They told us that the only way I could be put on her account is if I was a Filipino citizen (not going to happen). So….good for you. The rules must be different in Davao.

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  SteveB

I have been covered on my wife’s account for 17 years. It has never been a problem. That was both in Davao and GenSan.

SteveB
SteveB
4 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

How do you pay 3 years in advance????

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  SteveB

We went to the philhealth office and said we wanted to pay for 3 years. They took our money made out of receipt and gave it to us it was that simple. Part of getting the special coverage called the Z package for my heart treatment required us to commit to paying for 3 years without missing any payments, so we just decided to pay the whole 3 years at once.

Neal in Davao
Neal in Davao
4 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Great Article Bob! and great to see that you are on the path to a full recovery. I am wondering how you paid your premiums for 3 years in advance. It is hard enough paying for the whole year in advance by filling out 4 sets of forms for each quarter. Did you accomplish this at the main Philhealth office?

Neal in Davao
Neal in Davao
4 years ago
Reply to  Neal in Davao

Sorry didn’t read your response to Steve B

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  Neal in Davao

Thanks Neil. I hope you’re doing well. It was actually quite easy, we just went to the philhealth office and paid. It was nothing complicated didn’t take a lot of time nothing like that.

Edgar A. Hew
Edgar A. Hew
4 years ago
Reply to  SteveB

SteveB, seems for PhilHealth purposes (and most governments in general) you’re not really considered a “senior” until age 65. I continued to routinely pay PhilHealth premiums ages 60 to 64, it’s only that I turned 65 mid-2016 that they changed my status to “NON-PAYING MEMBER”, one might guess that it’s something their systems just automatically do when the long-enrolled paying member reaches age 65 the prior year. PhilHealth rules and procedures should be identical nationally, so your posted experiences seem strange. Did you get official receipts from PhilHealth when you (over)paid, or did your money transit some extra hands shrinking… Read more »

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  Edgar A. Hew

What you say is absolutely correct that. The things that Steve put are outside my experience, I’ve never heard of such things. Getting an official receipt for any transaction is always very important, to make sure that no money is being skimmed off by employees. Higher premiums for foreigners are just not in the plans as far as I know, and we have regular contact with the philhealth office.

Edgar
Edgar
4 years ago
Reply to  Edgar A. Hew

Catching up on the PhilHealth advisories is good reading, for example
“(2016-0012) PhilHealth Insurance Card Is A Valid Government ID”.
I’ll need to happily pay 90pesos to trade-in my old laminated PhilHealth pic-ID for the new card which includes the major benefit that you won’t need to bring a paper MDR record if you’re being admitted to avoid dying and can’t crawl home to print one!
Wish I could get a supplementary card for the wife, she needs gov’t ID whereas I have lots.

SteveB
SteveB
4 years ago
Reply to  Edgar A. Hew

Thanks Edgar and Bob – No, I didn’t use any “fixers” and I did get official receipts for all monies paid. Maybe I’ll revisit this with them when I go to the PhilHealth office. I’m wondering if our PhilHealth status may be the reason for the disparity – I’m classified as an “Informal” member since I’m not working and have no Philippine income. Since you (Bob) are (self-) Employed your classification may be different. Or, you’re membership on your wife’s account is an artifact prior to when the rules may have changed. Anyway I just pay what they tell me… Read more »

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  SteveB

We are also under the same classification as you are.

Edgar
Edgar
4 years ago
Reply to  SteveB

Ok Steve, here’s another thought. In case you’re not already connected, register at “https://www.philhealth.gov.ph/”. After completing their registration sequence, log in there then select “Premium Contributions” from the menu to get to “https://memberinquiry.philhealth.gov.ph/profile/inq_mem_contri.asp” where you should see exactly what PhilHealth acknowledges you paid them – they list it per-month there irrespective of how you paid. If it’s different than PHP200/mth then you need to question PhilHealth why because 200/mth is the family contribution we all pay. If it shows the proper 200/mth then wonder where your excess payments went.
Hope this helps; good luck.

SteveB
SteveB
4 years ago
Reply to  Edgar

Thanks Edgar I’ll try that!

LeRoy
LeRoy
4 years ago

After reading your previous comments and having a couple serious health problems in the family, I have paid an annual premium for 4 of the families.
If they are hospitalized, it saves money. If they stay out, that’s manageable.

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  LeRoy

Like you, LeRoy, I have e sure that our extended family is covered. I think it is a great thing to do.

Denzil Browne
4 years ago

This is an eye opener. Private hospitals are generally reputed to be having the best care – at cost. My experience in India with government hospitals has not been a good one whereas the one in Bahrain where I worked was equipped with the latest equipment – care was a different issue. Having 2 nurses in the family taught me that, while the pay may be low, the level of care is standard in both facilities because of the training. The best hospital here in Cebu, IMO, is Chong Wua because they have a lot of specialists although Cebu Doctors… Read more »

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  Denzil Browne

Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge from Cebu Denzil. I have not had any medical treatment there in Cebu. I have talked with e osts in Manila who have had similar experiences as mine with government hospitals up there.

GILBERT CHAUSSENERY
GILBERT CHAUSSENERY
4 years ago
Reply to  Denzil Browne

Chong Wua not has good has you say they where years ago but not today my friend had prostate problems was admitted for 5 days the doctor say he has prostate cancer he have to be operated soon has possible cost 250,000.00 p but did confront the doctor for my friend he ask did you do a biopsy oh no need then we open and cut what we have to cut ,i reply you do nothing discharged him now. back to his place i say okay book you ticket back to AUSTRALIA then let them to check what wrong .… Read more »

Jim Hannah
Jim Hannah
4 years ago

A bit lost there Gilbert. You’re saying that the diagnosis in the Phillipines was serious, and the recommendation was that he had surgery at a cost of two hundred and fifty thousand pesos. Back in Australia, he was given a dose of anti-biotics, a biopsy, and a clear diagnosis?

Cornell
Cornell
4 years ago

Happy New Year, Bob,

I have been trying to apply Phil-Health insurance for my parents, but told they aren’t qualified because they are citizens of the United States. I went to BOI in Bajada to apply for dual citizenship, and was told I have to go to Manila BOI main office. Can you give some enlightment on this.

Thanks,
Cornell

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  Cornell

Hi Cornell. Philhealth regulations were changed a couple years back, now everybody in the Philippines is eligible, even foreigners. That was about 2 years ago that they implemented that.

As for dual citizenship, my wife and all of my kids apply for dual citizenship in Davao City about 5 years ago, and it was no problem at all. I’m not sure why anybody told you that.

Cornell
Cornell
4 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Thanks, Bob. Do you know where PhilHealth is located in Davao City. Thank, Bob.

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  Cornell

Yes, the PhilHealth office is downtown on Magallanes.

Cornell
Cornell
4 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Thanks, Bob. Do you know in particular working in PhilHealth in Magallanes that specialized this type of issue, would very much appreciate.

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  Cornell

I’m sorry Cornell, I really can’t give you a specific person, but anybody there should be able to help. Good luck.

Rusty
Rusty
4 years ago
Reply to  Cornell

We’ve had Phil Health for 4 years. You shouldn’t have any problem getting coverage at all.

Kix Latayan
4 years ago

Great piece Bob, hope you are doing well. I agree with your article. SPMC has evolved and improved vastly from the infrastructure to equipment to professional expertise. You can’t argue with the numbers. Thanks to the ever dynamic chief of hospital of SPMC, Dr Leopoldo Vega, the improvements keep on coming.

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  Kix Latayan

Thank you Kix . Over the past year I have had heart treatment and extensive eye treatment at SPMC. I am very I.pressed with the place and consider it as my first choice for hospitals in Davao now.

Gary
Gary
4 years ago

My Mother was a nurse. She would always say ‘if you aren’t sick when you go into a hospital, you will be when you get out.’ I found the private hospitals to be alarming here in Leyte. After my child was born, Margie was having problems. A week or two after she lost her strength and went to a private hospital. The doctor was telling me she would need to go under the knife. But they wanted a truck load of money before they start that I didn’t have. So we got her to the Government hospital. This place wasn’t… Read more »

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  Gary

Hi Jerry, what you say doesn’t surprise me. As I said in the article in the three major cities that Healthcare is a totally different situation than in the province area. I would put many of the Davao hospitals on par with United States hospitals.

Allan Du Yaphockun
4 years ago

since i live in the southern part of mindanao(farther south than davao), we do have a bias against government hospitals. not without reason though. but spmc sounds amazing and should be the standard for all government hospitals in the philippines.

Bob Martin
4 years ago

Hi Allan, how are you doing? I hope you are well. Yes spmc has changed a lot. They’re building a lot of new buildings, and we’ll have different buildings for each specialty before long. For instance they’ve got a complete building for the heart center, and there’s nothing else treated there but heart patients. They’re building a new building adjacent to the Heart Center which is only for sure thing, a birth center. So, there are a lot of improvements there, and I’m quite impressed with the place.

Allan Du Yaphockun
4 years ago

doing great bob. my nephew recently got admitted for appendicitis and all private hospitals were full except for a space in the ward. we really need to have more hospitals and hospital beds in our city.

Rusty
Rusty
4 years ago

On the island of Bohol the government hospitals are poorly equipped.

Althea Cunanan
4 years ago

I’m glad you had a good experience at the Heart Center. That was my dad’s baby before he passed, ensuring the city of Davao got the top-of-the-line heart medical equipment.

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  Althea Cunanan

That’s really great, your dad did a great thing then. I was really happy at the Heart Center, they really took good care of me.

Althea Cunanan
4 years ago
Reply to  Althea Cunanan

Bob and you lived to tell the tale! ☺

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  Althea Cunanan

Yes. I am happy about that!

Rusty
Rusty
4 years ago
Reply to  Althea Cunanan

I wish your Dad had lived on the island of Bohol. The hospitals here lack a lot compared to those on Davao. The people deserve better.

Jack
Jack
4 years ago

Good article Bob. What was the total cost of your operation?

MindanaoBob
4 years ago
Reply to  Jack

Hi Jack, I covered that in a previous article, but perhaps you missed it. The total cost of that kind of operation is about a million-and-a-half pesos. However through philhealth with their Z package, the cost to me was only two hundred fifty thousand pesos.

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