Better healthcare urged after detection of 400 TB cases in Pasay jail

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

May 30, 2024, 5:32 pm

MANILA – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday called on the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to adopt healthcare improvement measures in prison facilities.

The human rights body made the call following the detection of 400 suspected tuberculosis (TB) cases among persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) at the Pasay City Jail, based on their X-ray results.

Currently, the concerned PDLs are being isolated for conclusive testing.

“TB is a highly contagious disease that poses a serious health risk, particularly in overcrowded and poorly ventilated environments such as prisons,” the CHR said in a statement.

“The high number of suspected TB cases among PDLs at Pasay City Jail highlights a critical public health issue that necessitates immediate and comprehensive action,” it added.

The Commission said the situation needs urgent action as TB “may spread both within the prison population and to the broader community”.

Apart from the BuCor, the Pasay City Jail and relevant agencies must address the issue, it said.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Philippines has the world’s 11th largest prison population.

Between 2015 and 2021, the number of people detained in the corrections system increased by nearly 75 percent — from 94,691 to 165,528.

Citing the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners or the Mandela Rules, the CHR said safety and security for prisoners, staff, service providers, and visitors must be ensured at all times.

Hence, PDLs should have access to the same level of medical care and treatment as the general population, including preventive measures and health screenings.

“To prevent similar health problems in jails, the Commission hopes that the BuCor will implement routine and comprehensive medical screenings for all PDLs upon entry and periodically during their incarceration to detect TB and other infectious diseases early,” the CHR said.

“Access to accurate and rapid diagnostic tools to confirm infectious diseases promptly must also be ensured,” it added.

The CHR also urged the government to pass into law the creation of the country’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM).

The NPM is envisioned to carry out the important role of preventing torture, initiating reforms, and upholding domestic and international standards relating to PDLs, jails, and places of detention. (PNA)