Medical Social Workers were first introduced to the Philippine healthcare system in 1954 by the Department of Health’s (DOH) Bureau of Hospitals (BOH) Circular No. 146, which mandated all the national, provincial, city, and emergency government hospitals develop a Medical Social Service Unit (MSSU).
This was a response to the World Health Organization’s redefinition of what health is, which is the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. “Circular No. 146 emphasized that social work in hospitals is recognized as an essential service to medical care in fully understanding the causes that initiate, perpetuate or aggravate the illness,” explains Madeliene Gabrielle M. Doromal, an advisor of MSW.
Since then, Medical Social Workers have actively helped many Filipinos have access to the healthcare services that they need. During the pandemic, Doromal says that medical social work was still focused on the provision of psychosocial support, even when this was challenged by their inability to provide face-to-face services. “Social Work Counseling was done over the phone. Their navigating and referral skills were much utilized, they facilitated the return of patients to their homes which required coordinating with multiple LGUs, and coordinating transport. They facilitated the cremation of the patients through the LGUs. They were utilized to provide Psychosocial Processing of Healthcare Providers who rendered duty in the Covid-19 Wards. They also facilitated the requirements for PhilHealth reimbursement on behalf of the patients.”
The country’s Medical Social Workers join the Department of Health’s celebration of World Social Work Day on March 21, 2023. The objective of the celebration is to promote the contributions of the profession to individuals, families, communities, and wider society. In line with the international theme, ‘Respecting Diversity through Social Action’. “The highlight of the activity will be a forum where medical social workers will share stories of their good practices of interventions that demonstrate the given theme. One such story is that of a mother whose anxiety about her son’s medical condition was relieved after they both underwent consultation with a medical social worker,” Doromal says.
The field of Medical Social Work is evolving, she adds. “It is moving toward clinical specialization that would recognize their competencies in psychosocial assessment and interventions, and their integration into medical care treatment.”