DOH to hit the ground running on unfinished UHC agenda

DOH will pursue a health reform agenda that is much more transparent, inclusive, coordinative, and synergistic

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III articulated the priorities and future plans of the DOH this 2018 at a European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) luncheon in Makati City. He said the department’s focus is on reforming health financing, regulation, service delivery, governance and performance accountability, with the goal of making Filipinos the healthiest in Southeast Asia by 2022, supported by a universal health care system.

“There are high expectations and greater challenges with a much bigger budget of P165B now than when we started with a PHP 10 billion budget in 2005. The DOH equally has a huge responsibility and accountability to the Filipino people,” the DOH Secretary said.

Reforms, he said, must be pursued with renewed enthusiasm and a transformational vision for the DOH to regain the top performing spot among government line agencies in terms of public satisfaction and responsiveness to patients and the public.

He announced the renewed commitment of the DOH to pursue a performance governance system (PGS) which was started in 2009 during his first term in which the DOH managed to achieve the first two of four stages of transformational governance, which are Initiation (2009) and Compliance (2010). The initiative was a partnership between the DOH and with the Institute of Solidarity in Asia and the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) to improve DOH systems and strategies to achieve its long-term vision of guaranteeing equitable, sustainable, and quality health care for all Filipinos.

Duque recounted how a gap was experienced in the implementation of the PGS initiative as the DOH stopped before reaching the Proficiency and Institutionalization phase. Secretary Duque will revive these efforts under his present leadership so that these last two phases shall be realized.

“We need to adopt a culture of evidence-based metrics that will enable the health department and the public to monitor how the health sector is working to achieve better timeliness, better responsiveness, better quality, and better outcomes for patients,” Duque said.

Secretary Duque also affirmed continuing the priority health programs begun by former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial under the Philippine Health Agenda, (PHA) adding that these elements will be merged with a strategic approach through the revitalization of his flagship program, the FOURmula One with a new tagline: Boosting Universal Health Care via FOURmula One Plus otherwise known as F1 Plus.

Duque promised that his agency will make the health reform agenda much more transparent, inclusive, coordinative, and synergistic with the efforts of both public and private sector partners, especially the local government units, thereby enabling the DOH to make health services more felt by Filipinos, especially the poor.  

The DOH, under Secretary Duque’s new leadership has also prioritized the review of the Universal Health Care Bill pending in Congress where Duque said reforms of both DOH and Philhealth must be grounded on reality of finite resources and funds to ensure that health spending brings the biggest impact and quality health care to majority of Filipinos and assure actuarial solvency for future generations. 

Duque will also push public hospitals to improve their effectiveness, efficiency, responsiveness, and quality of health services to patients through enforcing the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA) and working with the Civil Service Commission (CSC) through the Contact Center ng Bayan (8888 Hotline) to address patient feedbacks and complaints on the services of public hospitals.

The Health Secretary also asked the business sector to invest in improving health services for Filipinos, particularly in the areas of affordable medicine and the construction of medical facilities. He also proposed investment in medical equipment, electronic health systems, and medical tourism.

He shared that DOH is currently evaluating eight public-private proposals for its health programs, as well as four unsolicited proposals covering vaccine production, research and development as well as equipment maintenance and radiation therapy for DOH regional hospitals.

Through the Philippine Health Agenda, the Duterte administration continues to grant equitable access to quality and affordable health services among Filipinos. Notably, President Duterte allocated PHP 100 million a month to the Philippine General Hospital aside (PGH) from the provisions of DOH and DSWD. The President has also provided subsidies to benefit the poor patients of other government-run hospitals such as V. Luna General Hospital (PHP 50 million); Veterans Memorial Medical Center (PHP 50 million); and Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (PHP 50 million).