08 September 2016
“Health Facilities Enhancement Program: The DOH’s White Elephant”
After billions of pesos, has it really made healthcare more accessible?
Once again, the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) takes center stage in the proposed 2017 budget of the Department of Health (DOH). This program will take up 15.5% of the agency’s annual budget, making it the single biggest line item.
However, according to Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), after more than a decade, there is still no proof that this program has succeeded, or even improved access to health care.
Starting at around P1 billion under the Arroyo administration, HFEP ballooned to more than P26.8 billion under BS Aquino. In the Duterte administration, the amount is P21 billion.
“Yet after more than P80 billion total spending on HFEP, neither the Arroyo nor the Aquino regimes has shown that the program has succeeded,” said Dr. Joseph Carabeo, HEAD secretary-general. “In fact, under BS Aquino, more than half of Filipinos still had no access to basic health services.”
The program itself is flawed by the absence of clear parameters. For instance, should simple medical equipment like a stethoscope and a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure apparatus) be considered under HFEP when these are basic requisites of any health center? Shouldn’t these therefore fall under local government spending instead of HFEP?
“The problems of transparency and efficiency become issues.” Carabeo added.
In the Commission on Audit report for 2012, the DOH “lost” more than P1.1 billion due to “unserviceable equipment beyond economic repair; idle and/or unutilized hospital buildings, facilities, and equipment; and deficiencies in planning, engineering designs, and program of works.” In 2012, the HFEP budget was P5.078 billion.
Sadly, the proposed 2017 HFEP budget does not even promote grassroots development. The budget for barangay health stations is zero, while that for rural health units has been slashed by P5.2 billion compared with the 2016 budget. Suspiciously, “Other Health Care Facilities” has an increase of P5.3 billion pesos compared with its 2016 budget.
“From the outset, the criticism with HFEP is that it lends itself to patronage, since the national government can arbitrarily favor certain local government units. Worse, HFEP can also be used to promote the privatization of healthcare, as government’s ‘investment’ in improving facilities before entering into public-private partnerships.” Dr. Carabeo added.
“The Duterte administration should revisit HFEP as a program and distance itself from the pitfalls of patronage and privatization.” ###