Healthcare in the Philippines varies considerably, 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.
The Philippines' healthcare system operates through both private and public hospitals. Although healthcare is largely expensive for the average Filipino, expats may find it more affordable than in their home country.
Local medical staff are well trained and speak English, especially in big cities, as many have studied and practised medicine overseas. The Philippines is one of the world’s biggest exporters of medical staff, with many nurses and doctors leaving the country to work abroad. While the remittances sent home from these workers are a key contributor to the Filipino economy, healthcare in the country has suffered due to the departure of 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 and contributions from employers and employees. Most expats working in the Philippines must enrol with PhilHealth.
Doctors at public hospitals in the Philippines are skilled, though the 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, the scheme does not cover all procedures, meaning patients usually have to pay for the expenses.
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 at a reasonable cost for most expats, and the standard of care is high.
Thanks to the exceptional and low-cost service at private hospitals, the Philippines is even becoming a popular medical tourism destination. However, most private hospitals expect payment before commencing treatment.
Medicines and pharmacies in the Philippines
Pharmacies in the Philippines have highly trained pharmacists and are widely available. Signs for pharmacies are in English and easily recognisable.
Local supermarkets sometimes stock basic medications that do not require a prescription. However, drug control in the Philippines is strict, especially concerning prescription medicines. Many pharmacies in major cities are open 24/7, and most hospitals also have 24-hour 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 getting mosquito bites.
Among the health hazards is the question of food and water safety. We recommend new arrivals avoid drinking tap water due to its low quality and opt for bottled water instead.
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 do not enjoy coverage under PhilHealth should purchase comprehensive private health insurance.
Most expats opt for an international health insurance plan, which they should arrange before arriving in the country.
Many expats travel to Singapore or Hong Kong for specialised medical treatment. Expats intending to leave the Philippines for medical purposes should ensure 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 remote areas. In case of emergency, dial 911. To contact the Philippine Red Cross, dial 143.
►For information on obtaining a visa to live and work in the country, see Visas for the Philippines
Are you an expat living in Philippines?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Philippines. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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