Pupils face greater risks due to lack of health manpower in public schools
Elementary and high school students face greater health risks due not only to the absence of adequate medical facilities but also to the lack of health care personnel in 43,000 public schools across the country, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said.
Gordon said the lack of medical and health manpower in public schools affects students’ concentration and performance when the simple health complaints they feel are not treated just because there are no enough personnel to do so.
“When a child is in school and he feels a simple headache but there are no nurses or medical officers who would attend to him, that simple ailment would affect him the whole day and he would not be able to listen well to the teacher and concentrate on the lessons,” he said.
“We must realize how vulnerable our children are, especially when they are in school where they are exposed to more danger and possible sicknesses. That is why we must ensure that there are doctors, dentists and nurses available to take care of them while they are in school,” he added.
Government figures show that the country’s public school system only has 154 medical officers, 617 school dentists, 3,254 school nurses, 570 dental aides, and 32 nutritionist-dietitians attending to more than 17 million public school pupils.
The current health personnel to pupil ratio is at one medical officer to 80,000 students; one school dentist to 20,000 pupils; and one school nurse to 5,000 students.
“The number of health personnel we have in our public schools is really disappointing. Only one school nurse is assigned to 5,000 students. If two or three students feel sick at the same time, the nurse would have a hard time taking care of the sick pupils’ needs,” Gordon said.
Gordon explained that the problem of shortage in medical and health personnel is an urgent concern since it is the physical condition of students which are at stake in this dilemma.
He said that one way to address the predicament is through his ‘text-for-change’ proposal which seeks to augment government resources to fill the gap in the country’s health and education requirements by requiring telecommunications companies to remit part of their net income from local text messaging.
“When this bill is enacted into law, we will be able to hire enough doctors, nurses, dentists, and even nutritionists, who would look after the health needs of students. We will also build or upgrade school clinics and provide for regular vaccination and dental check-up programs,” Gordon said.
“We say that health is wealth. We say that our youth is the hope of our future. But more than saying these things, we must act to show how much we truly value them. If we take the necessary actions to improve the health of our students, we prove our children how significant they really are for our country,” he added.