BAGUIO CITY — Health Care Without Harm (HCWH)-Southeast Asia in a forum on the gradual phase-out of mercury in all Philippine health care facilities and institutions, talks of the merits of the phase-out emphasizing why this should be a priority program in all hospitals.
AO 2008-0021 signed last August by the Department of Health (DoH) will require all hospitals to follow the guideline for the gradual phase-out of mercury in two years. Another salient provision is the requirement to all new health care facilities applying for a license to operate to submit an inventory of all mercury-containing devices that will be used in their facilities and a corresponding mercury elimination program.
“On top of the administrative order, which mandates all hospitals to immediately discontinue the distribution of mercury thermometers in the patients, admission or discharge kits, is the danger that all mercury-containing devices pose to patients as well as to the nurses, doctors and other health workers,” said Faye Ferrer, HCWH-SEA Program Office for Mercury in a forum.
The forum organized by HCWH-SEA, DoH-Cordillera Administrative Region and St. Louis University (SLU) Hospital of the Sacred Heart in Baguio aims to gather the support of all of the region’s hospital in this phase-out.
Occupational hazard, danger to people, wildlife and the environment are substantial reasons to phase-out mercury,” Ferrer pointed out.
According to Malou Jacinto, Administrator of SLU Hospital of the Sacred Heart, “shift to mercury alternative is our only solution considering the cost of cleaning up mercury spills in hospitals and the insurmountable diseases it poses to anyone who enters hospital facilities or anyone who inhales air with mercury.”
Mercury inhaled as vapor and absorbed through the lungs may cause tremors, emotional changes (mood swings, irritability, nervousness, excessive shyness), insomnia, neuromuscular changes (weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching), headaches, disturbances in sensations, changes in nerve responses, performance deficits on tests of cognitive function. Higher exposure may cause kidney defects, respiratory failure and death.
Ferrer pointed out that the shift to mercury alternatives is “doable, affordable and is economically-feasible.” She cited even before the signing of the AO, more than fifty hospitals in the Philippines have either phased-out or is in the process of phasing-out mercury. First of these hospitals is the Philippine Heart Center in Metro Manila and SLU Hospital of the Sacred Heart in Baguio City.
“This for us is the true essence of providing health care?a health care that is safe to the people and less toxic to the environment,” Ferrer added.
Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) is a global coalition of 473 organizations in more than 50 countries working to protect health by reducing pollution in health care sector. # Contributed by Sonia G. Astudillo