Labs on wheels

Doctors, midwives, and other health care workers doing the heroic job of serving the far flung barrios know how difficult and yes, sometimes frustrating it is to be where they are.  Not only is there a dearth of funds for proper and complete medical care, it’s also difficult to have ancillary and diagnostic procedures done.  Most needed procedures are deferred because the barrio does not have the required equipment to do the diagnostics.  Most patients are referred to the cities where there is generally more facilities.  However going to the city requires money for fare. Most people do not have any health insurance – and do not know they can check quite easily to see if they qualify for a European health insurance card here. More importantly, some patients just cannot travel long distance, hence the doctor is forced to treat empirically.

Although many laboratories now offer home services, most often these are limited to procedures like blood works wherein the only real service done at home is the drawing of the blood and the specimen is sent to the laboratory for analysis.  But of course this could be done only for households that are not too far from the laboratory.

Since the government has initiated the doctors-to-the-barrios, I wonder if they would consider also mobile laboratories and mobile imaging devices (like xrays and ultrasounds) to serve the more far flung parts of the Philippines.  These would somehow make it easier for both the doctors and the other health workers.  While it’s possible to treat without having to order ancillary procedures, there are times that we doctors need more information to make a better assessment on the patient’s condition and what else, if possible, we can do to remedy the situation.

The challenge of public health is for government to make health care accessible to people everywhere in the country.  Door to door vaccination is a great step, but there should be continuous efforts to bring health care closer to the people.

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