Zero mercury in this lifetime PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 07 December 2010 17:07

Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia (HCWH-SEA) commends the more than 600 mercury-free hospitals in the Philippines saying "we can achieve zero mercury in this lifetime".
This is in response to an earlier statement from the Department of Health (DoH) that zero mercury may not be possible within this lifetime. The group likewise calls for immediate banning of mercury importation.
In the DOH National Conference on Mercury Phase-out in Health Care, Merci Ferrer, HCWH-SEA Executive Director, said that in the survey conducted by the organization between January and August 2010, 600 hospitals in the Philippines are already complying to DoH-Administrative Order 21 mandating the gradual phase-out of mercury-containing devices in all Philippine health care facilities and institutions by 2010.
"Add to that are 60 more hospitals that started mercury phase-out even before the Administrattive Order," Ferrer added.
Ferrer reported that of the 1,745 hospitals in the country 705 responded to the survey. "We commend the hospitals who have phased-out mercury and those who have expressed full support to the phase-out," she remarked.
Regions 12 (SOCCSKSARGEN), Cordillera Administrative Region, 4B (MIMAROPA) and 5 (Bicol) rank highest with 67%, 58%, 53% and 52% respectively in their implementation of phasing out mercury in hospitals.
"Looking at the different geographical settings of the top 4 compliant regions, geographical setting is clearly not a hindrance in the mercury phase-out implementation," said Ferrer.
From the survey, majority of the hospitals started mercury phase-out during the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2010 only. This was the time when HCWH-SEA went around the different regions to disseminate information on Administrative Order 21. Lack of information and budgetary constraints were the major issues raised for its delayed implementation.
"The compliant hospitals represent 34% of the total number of hospitals in the Philippines.We still have 66% of the total number of hospitals to work with but with all concerned sectors working on this common goal of zero mercury, we will get there," Ferrer concluded.
In the hands of LGUs
The group (HCWH-SEA) calls on the local government units (LGU) to support mercury phase-out in health care in the provincial, rural and barangay health units.
"The next ball game is now in the hands of the LGUs," Ferrer stressed.
Earlier, Cebu Provincial Board Member Arleigh Sitoy upon seeing the low mercury phase-out compliance in the province said that he will author a resolution and an ordinance to fast track mercury phase-out and address the storage issue in Cebu.
Likewise, General Santos City Councilor Marius Oco said that he will author a similar ordinance for the City.
"LGUs must now enter the scene when it comes to mercury phase-out in health care. Due to the devolved nature of our health care system, regulations pertaining to LGU-controlled health care facilities must come from their respective local officials through local ordinances," Ferrer remarked.
According to the group's report, Rural health units (RHU) were included in the survey. However, very few responded and majority admitted that they were unaware of the existence of AO 21. The group cited one RHU that recently purchased mercury thermometers for use in their clinics.
"We appeal to the LGUs to help disseminate the information and to likewise support the phase-out," Ferrer added. HCWH-SEA is sending letters to all provincial governments to turn their attention on the mercury phase-out.
Recently, the provinces of Cavite and Northern Samar have expressed support for mercury phase-out in their respective areas. Quezon City issued a similar order on mercury phase-out. Bohol is looking at a similar ordinance.
"We missed the September 2010 deadline. We must not wait any longer," said Ferrer.
Pledge of support
At the Conference, the DoH posted a pledge of support banner and asked different DoH-Center for Health Development (CHD), City and Provincial Health Offices to pledge their support to zero mercury.
Among those who signed are CHD Directors and representatives from Region 5, 6, 4A, and CARAGA and representatives from Nueva Ecija, Misamis Oriental, Camiguin, Zambales, Surigao del Norte, Zamboanga City, and Ilocos Norte.
The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) likewise pledged to strictly monitor and implement AO 21 and the benchbook which now mandates all hospitals to be mercury-free before accreditation.
Atty. Miguel Cuna of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) said that much work needs to be done especially on the storage issue of phased-out devices. While "there are no silver bullets" on the issue, he admitted that immediate action is needed.
Dr. Criselda Abesamis of the National Center for Health Facility Development said that we need concurrent order to stop purchase of devices that are being phased-out.
Engr. Bonifacio Magtibay of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that suppliers must be required to retrieve products that contain mercury while DoH ASec Nemesio Gako said that each must do his part to make the phase-out happen.
HCWH-SEA likewise encourages the health care sector to push the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release the 13.2 M allocation for the purchase of mercury-free thermometers and sphygmomanometers.
"This is included in the 2009 National Budget and should have been released early this year," said Ferrer.
The group also encourages the DoH to utilize multi-media platform in disseminating and promoting AO 21 and to continue monitoring the compliance of all regions.
"Being the first country in Southeast Asia region to enact a policy to phase-out mercury in health care, the DoH should always lead by example. A total ban on mercury importation and its extensive implementation, not just in paper, are the ultimate solutions," director Ferrer concluded. --SONIA G. ASTUDILLO