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Overall, the healthcare system in the Philippines is of a high standard. Filipino medical staff are expertly trained, but the facilities may not be as impressive as those found in high-end US or European hospitals. The quality of the Philippines’ state-subsidised public healthcare, although good, varies widely between rural and urban areas. Private healthcare in the Philippines provides much more consistent care and facilities tend to be better equipped than public ones. English is also spoken throughout the Philippines, meaning that there should be few language barriers preventing expats from accessing healthcare.
Doctors and nursing staff in public hospitals are highly proficient, however public healthcare in the Philippines faces some limitations. Despite having achieved universal healthcare, the Philippines still struggles with unequal access to medical care. As such, the standard of public healthcare in the Philippines generally varies from excellent in urban centres to poor in rural areas. Public healthcare also faces strain both from treating the large number of Filipinos who rely on public healthcare and from the trend of Filipino medical staff migrating to Western countries. This has resulted in understaffing in some hospitals and patients may experience delays in treatment.
Public healthcare in the Philippines is administered by Philhealth, a government owned corporation. Philhealth subsidises a variety of treatments including inpatient care and non-emergency surgeries, although it does not cover all medical treatments and costs.
Enrolling with Philhealth is mandatory for expats who are employed in the Philippines. Philhealth contributions are derived from employers, employee salaries and the state. Expats can voluntarily enrol with Philhealth if they have residency status.
Private healthcare services are well-established and growing in the Philippines. Although doctors in private hospitals are as good as doctors practising in the public sector, private facilities are much better equipped and treatment is typically faster. Private services are considered to be expensive by locals, but are relatively cheap by most expat standards. The relative affordability of private healthcare can be seen in the increasing popularity of the Philippines as a medical tourism destination.
Pharmacies and medicine
There are numerous pharmacies in the Philippines and many 24-hour pharmacies can be found in major cities and attached to most hospitals. Pharmacies are staffed by accredited pharmacists who maintain the state’s strict guidelines on the sale of prescription drugs.
Although most medicine is available in the Philippines, some prescription medicine may not be available in the country, so expats should ensure that they either bring the necessary medication with them, or that alternatives can be prescribed in the Philippines.
Expats should speak to their doctor at least six weeks before travelling to the Philippines to ensure that their vaccinations are up to date. Although contraction rates are low, mosquito-borne diseases such as Japanese encephalitis, malaria, dengue fever and the chikungunya virus are health hazards in the Philippines. These are best avoided by adopting preventative measures, such as sleeping under a mosquito net and wearing mosquito repellent.
911 is the general national emergency number in the Philippines.
The quality of ambulance services differs significantly and this problem is compounded by the lack of strict policies governing how emergency services operate. This may result in slow response times and poor pre-hospital treatment. The public emergency system also directs most serious emergencies to designated public facilities which may delay emergency care.
Private ambulances generally have highly proficient staff and better equipment while also promising faster response times. Private ambulance services are often secured through monthly subscriptions, or their services are included as part of a medical insurance package. Many private hospitals also have their own ambulance services.