JAIL OFFICIALS want the help of the Health department about its insufficient medical staff and equipment.

The national penitentiary only has 13 doctors nationwide, four of them assigned at the main jail in Muntinlupa City, Henry Fabro, jail hospital chief, told reporters on the sidelines of a regional conference on prison health.

Mr. Fabro said they would seek the help of the Health agency about additional doctors and in buying equipment. There are only four to five jail doctors for 18,000 inmates, he said. The national penitentiary only has about 40 nurses.

“We only have four doctors who are going around four shifts,” Mr. Fabro said, adding that the Health department’s Doctors to the Barrios program might help the bureau. “Maybe they could give us some.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Fabro said he could not confirm Senator Leila M. de Lima’s claim that 29 inmates at the national jail recently died, 10 of them allegedly due to pneumonia and tuberculosis and 14 from noncommunicable diseases.

The lawmaker, who is in jail for alleged drug trafficking while she was still justice secretary, wants the Senate to investigate the deaths, which allegedly happened in 17 days “due to lack of basic necessities and proper medical treatment.”

Mr. Fabro said among the main causes of death at maximum prison compound are heart attacks and chronic kidney diseases.

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said jail officials could probe the matter on their own.

Meanwhile, Paul Borlongan, a medical officer of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, noted that as of 2015, the mortality rate in the country’s jails ranges from 300 to 800 yearly.

He said that they have a budget for medicines and the Health department also gives them drugs for noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas