Gaps still exist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of pulmonary diseases in the country. With a still inadequate number of chest specialists, how are these gaps being bridged?
By Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos
Four out of the top ten deadliest diseases in the country are related to the respiratory system. These diseases—namely, pneumonia, lung cancer, tuberculosis, and asthma—account for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of lives each year. However, despite the prevalence of potentially deadly pulmonary diseases being rampant diseases which could kill or disable Filipinos from all walks of life, there is still a sore lack of chest specialists who could attend to patients with pulmonary problems and help prevent them and their complications
The Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP), the mother organization for trained and accredited pulmonologists in the country, knows well this dilemma in the country; and they are taking serious steps in continually bridging the existing healthcare gaps in terms of promoting lung health to the public, and making sure our local specialists are always updated on new information and technologies to address the still alarming rate of serious pulmonary diseases in the country.
Established on April 25, 1973, the PCCP is the premier specialty organization which sets the standards of excellence in the training and practice of pulmonary medicine in the country. For 45 years now, the PCCP has focused on its vision to lead the battle against respiratory problems, be benchmarks of medical excellence in the country, and be at par with the international medical community.
“Our main thrust really, of course, would be advocacy, training, and research in the field of lung disease,” Dr. Leni Fernandez, president of PCCP says. “It has always been our thrust since the organization was started—to disseminate and to make the public aware of the gravity of lung disease so that we can improve on preventive measures.”
The society’s annual and midyear convention in and out of Manila, the councils of different fields in pulmonology led by premiere experts, and advocacy and lay activities nationwide are proof that PCCP is seriously intent in its objectives and dedicated to achieve the necessary health outcome, and that is, to curb the rising incidence of lung diseases.
The PCCP’s various initiatives are mirroring the main goal to change the country’s healthcare status with regards pulmonary diseases, which continue to affect not only the survival and quality of life of each patient but the country’s growth and development as well. As it continues to maintain its high standards of professional excellence and service, the PCCP ensures that whatever it does is deeply rooted on its core values that include Social Consciousness, Professionalism/Integrity, Excellence, Commitment, and Creativity/Innovativeness.
Chapters and councils
To achieve its goals, the PCCP encourages the exchange of ideas and best practices among its members and peers here and abroad.
For a nationwide coverage, the PCCP has nine chapters spread all over Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. According to Dr. Fernandez, these chapters help in ensuring that all members in the country are able to have active participation and contribute in the execution of activities of the College.
For its scientific goals, councils are established to cover various fields within pulmonary medicine. They develop clinical practice guidelines (CPG), registry and research surveys on diseases relevant to other activities. The council members also serve as resource persons and key opinion leaders in their areas of interest.
Another major role of PCCP is to accredit and certify hospitals or institutions for adult pulmonary medicine training. This ensures and maintains the standard of excellence in the training and practice of pulmonary medicine in the Philippines.
The college’s Pulmonary Training Program Accreditation Board formulates and executes policies, rules and regulations governing certification, subject to the approval of the Board of Directors of the society.
Training programs are vital to ensure that young doctors passionate about contributing their share in addressing the pulmonary menace in the country are adequately equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and overall competence to treat even serious lung problems. “The plan is to provide a good number of pulmonologists in the Philippines,” Dr. Fernandez stresses.
To date, there are only 15 training institutions in the country for the specialty of pulmonology. Thirteen of these are in Manila and two are located in Cebu.
“We are encouraging chapters for example in Davao and Iloilo to really consider putting up their own training programs.”
Due to the limited number of pulmonologists, Dr. Fernandez underscores the need to train other physicians as well as other professionals like nurses. According to her, the current number of certified pulmonologists nationwide is not enough to cater to millions of Filipinos, especially those in far-flung areas.
Currently, the PCCP is comprised of 733 fellows, 83 diplomates, nine honorary members and 345 associate members from different parts of the country.
Collaboration with other societies
Despite the relatively inadequate number in their ranks, the PCCP is making no excuses about sustaining its advocacies. Dr. Fernandez sees a bright year for PCCP, what with the line up of plans to be implemented, topped with engagement and cooperation not only within the society but with other allied professionals and societies as well.
“It’s mostly teamwork really and to get everybody on board and have a common vision,” she says when asked what could be the most vital key to attaining the organization’s goals.
While actively maintaining their yearly projects, the PCCP is now forging ties with different medical societies to further strengthen the fight again lung diseases.
“My vision for this year is to really form collaboration with other societies to get our act together; to be united against these diseases and the only thing I saw is to spearhead collaboration with these societies,” she says.
These associations are the Philippine Association of Family Physicians (PAFP), Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (PSAAI), and the Philippine Academy of Pediatric Pulmonologists, Inc. (PAPP).
Aside from these, PCCP is set to form partnerships with the government sector, specifically PhilHealth and the Department of Health (DOH) to push for funding on different case rates and other programs for the betterment of pulmonary health care in the country.
There’s no doubt that everyone in the country joins the PCCP in its vision to see a healthy nation which does not huff and puff because of pulmonary diseases.
“It’s mostly teamwork really and to get everybody on board and have a common vision (against lung diseases)”
Aug 2018 Health and Lifestyle