“Matakot sa Hakot!”
“Matakot sa hakot” is the battle-cry of the ophthalmologists of the Southern Tagalog or STSO. For years, the Southern Tagalog region as well as the rest of Philippines now has been victimized by cataract “sweepers”. Elderly patients in the barangays are being offered free cataract surgery in the guise of charity work, regardless if surgery is truly warranted, and in areas well served by local ophthalmologists. These patients are handpicked based on their Philhealth membership and given free transportation to an ambulatory surgical center in Metro Manila, where the cataract surgery is performed.
Paid recruiters knock on doors of patients and convince patients to have surgery. Patients often have no informed consent and are not even aware of their doctor’s identity. Worse, often they don’t even have adequate pre-operative check up resulting in many patients whose blurring of vision is due to causes other than cataract to be missed or mismanaged. Furthermore many of these patients are deprived of proper post-operative check up as they are speedily bussed back to their home towns where their local ophthalmologists are left to handle any complications if any that resulted from the surgery. By this time the unethical doctors have already charged the philhealth payments for their surgeries.
Because of this unethical solicitation of patients, the existing humble indigent programs of the local ophthalmologists are no match to the resources of the sweepers as they are backed by deep financial resources , man power , non government organizations,and local politicians who believe that the sweepers are better as they come from impressive sounding ambulatory centers in Metro Manila . The reputation of respectable ophthalmologists in the health care system has been tarnished. While the “True indigents patients” with no Philhealth are done in make shift operating rooms, convents, lying in etc. Ophthalmologists with conscience are making a stand to protect their reputation, curb the rampant abuse by unethical colleagues, ensure the responsible utilization of Philhealth benefits so as not to deplete its resources for unneeded surgery and, foremost, protect the rights of the Filipino patient.