Healthcare in the Philippines varies, ranging from excellent to dire. Hospitals in the major cities are generally of a high standard, while many in rural areas lack infrastructure and investment.
Healthcare is provided through both private and public hospitals in the Philippines. Although healthcare is generally expensive for the average Filipino, expats may find it more affordable than in their home country.
Local medical staff are well trained, especially in big cities. Many have studied and practised medicine overseas, and speak English. The Philippines is one of the biggest exporters of medical staff in the world, with many nurses and doctors leaving the country to work abroad. While the remittances sent home from these workers are an important contributor to the Philippines economy, healthcare provision in the Philippines has been undermined by the departure of so many medical professionals.
Public healthcare in the Philippines
All citizens are entitled to free healthcare under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). The scheme is government-controlled and funded by local and national government subsidies, as well as by contributions from employers and employees. Most expats working in the Philippines must enrol with PhilHealth.
Doctors at public hospitals in the Philippines are well trained, although equipment and facilities may not be up to the standard of private institutions.
Access to public healthcare in the Philippines remains a contentious issue, particularly in rural areas. Although all Filipino nationals are entitled to healthcare through PhilHealth, not all medical procedures are covered by the scheme and medical expenses are often paid for by the individual patient.
Private healthcare in the Philippines
Private healthcare is widely available in major cities. Most hospitals in the Philippines are privately run. For those who can afford it, treatment in private hospitals is excellent. Many specialised treatments are available and the standard of care is high.
Although expensive by local standards, services at these institutions are relatively cheap for many expats when compared to what they would pay back home. The Philippines is even becoming a popular destination for medical tourism thanks to the low cost and high standard of services offered at private facilities, most of which expect cash payment upfront before commencing treatment.
Medicines and pharmacies in the Philippines
Pharmacies are widely available in the Philippines. Signs for pharmacies are in English and easily recognisable. Most are staffed by well-trained pharmacists.
Local supermarkets sometimes stock basic medications that do not require a prescription. However, drug control is strict in the Philippines and strict guidelines pertain to prescription drugs. Many pharmacies in major cities are open 24/7, and most hospitals also have 24/7 pharmacies.
Health hazards in the Philippines
Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are endemic in many parts of the country, particularly during the rainy season between June and November. Expats should ensure that they take adequate precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
Among the health hazards is the question of food and water safety. New arrivals are advised against drinking bottled water due to the low quality of tap water.
Health insurance in the Philippines
Most companies provide health insurance to their Filipino employees, through contributions to PhilHealth and private health insurance providers. PhilHealth provides access to medical care for contributing members at any accredited hospital in the Philippines. Foreigners who are not covered under PhilHealth should ensure that they have private health insurance.
Most expats opt for an international health insurance plan, which should be arranged before arriving in the country.
Many expats travel to Singapore or Hong Kong for specialised medical treatment. Expats wishing to leave the Philippines for medical purposes should ensure that they have adequate cover for medical evacuation to these destinations.
Emergency services in the Philippines
Emergency services are available in all major cities but are limited in more remote areas. In case of emergency, dial 911. To contact the Philippine Red Cross, dial 143.