Mercado builds systems to make care more affordable and confront the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines

September 28, 2020

Dr. Edwin Mercado

Dr. Edwin Mercado

Edwin Mercado, MD, came to the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health to learn more about how to run a series of health care facilities in the Philippines and ensure affordable care for all. He’s since developed a feedback loop between the School and the facilities he oversees, while steering a health care system through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though he is seeking a Master of Healthcare Administration degree, Mercado has already been working to improve health care provision in the Philippines and, by building the relationship between the Gillings School and the health care facilities he directs, he is advancing the education of others. He is president and chief executive officer (CEO) at Mercado General Hospital, Inc., which operates a number of health care facilities in the Philippines, including the 145-bed Daniel O. Mercado Medical Center in Tanauan, Batangas.

Overseeing a major network of providers during a pandemic hasn’t been easy, but Mercado has employed some innovative solutions to ensure the facilities have sufficient capacity. With support from business consortium Ayala Group, he has overseen the rapid expansion of one facility to become a COVID-19 referral center and the addition of new laboratories for testing.

“We are doubling our current capacity for critical and moderate cases,” said Mercado. “For mild or symptomatic cases that involve comorbidities, we are looking at converting hotels as holding areas to prevent community transmission. Manpower supply is challenging but we are recruiting Filipinos who just came back and were displaced from overseas.”

He notes that the mandate to keep costs down remains.

At the Gillings School, Mercado studies how to provide affordable care in a country where health care spending lags at about 4% of gross domestic product. With passage of the 2019 Universal Healthcare Law, the Philippine Congress changed the way hospitals were reimbursed, shifting from a fee-for-service model to one that provided a standard payment per patient.

“This pushed me to look at ways to learn how to effectively run the network and maintain financial viability while providing affordable care,” said Mercado. “After thorough research, I decided to enroll in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health because it is a thought leader on models and policies for value-based reimbursements and population health.”

Mercado is taking the opportunity to strengthen the educational system, too. When he came to Gillings, he helped set up a capstone project for other students to work in the Philippines and get hands-on experience. Learning at every turn is something of a modus operandi for Mercado, who has engaged in a series of fellowships in orthopedics and arthroplasty across his career.

He graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of the Philippines before returning to earn a Doctor of Medicine degree and complete an orthopedic residency. He then entered a series of fellowships at Medical City Dallas, the University of Cincinnati, the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases and The Christ Hospital Cincinnati, the latter of which coincided with his tenure as president and CEO.

When asked about what inspires him, Mercado points to a sobering fact: Six out of 10 Filipinos die without seeing a doctor.

“Seeing the sufferings of my countrymen who cannot afford proper health care, it has been my objective to see how I can help create a more equitable health system. Ironically, we export the most nurses and doctors overseas of any country, yet we cannot take care of ourselves. We hope to create a model for affordable care for member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as they integrate their economies and health care systems.”


Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomms@unc.edu.

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