October 7, 2016
100 Days: Change has not come to DOH
“For the first 100 days, contradictions are glaring between President Duterte’s wish of free healthcare for the Filipino people (especially the poor) and his appointee, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial. In furtherance of this wish, President Duterte ordered the DOH to learn from Cuba. However, it appears that the DOH leadership failed to truly understand the Cuban healthcare system and apply its best practices in the Philippines,” said Dr. Joseph Carabeo, Secretary-General of Health Alliance for Democracy.
”There is no change in the health policy direction of the Department of Health. The 'Ubial' Health Agenda is a mere rehash of the Aquino Health Agenda and the other Health Sector Reform Agenda of previous administrations that miserably failed to guarantee health for all. The IMF-WB, WTO-APEC-WHO neoliberal agenda of budget cuts, fiscal autonomy, corporatization and privatization of public hospitals and an insurance-led healthcare system remain to be their mantra,” added Dr. Carabeo.
“Mired with hospital budget cuts and a strong endorsement of PhilHealth, more and more the Philippine healthcare system is geared towards turning public healthcare into a private enterprise, while pretending to increase the budget for the poor and indigent (through PhilHealth),” Carabeo furthered.
In the proposed 2017 budget, DOH decreased the budget for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) by more than half (51%; P74.4 billion in 2016 to P38 billion in 2017). The MOOE budget is used in medicines, utilities and maintenance for the day-to-day operations of public hospitals. “But thanks to the sustained actions of the health workers and the people, P1.5 billion was restored for now (12 DOH specialty hospitals and 54 DOH-retained public hospitals) after the House plenary discussion on the health budget,” Carabeo explained.
Dr. Carabeo notes however that “for a self-confessed public health official for 27 years and a staunch advocate of primary health care, Secretary Ubial has ZERO budget proposal for Barangay Health Stations for 2017. Imagine the lumad or indigenous people: even if distributed with the bragged Philhealth coverage, they cannot use their card for basic check-ups or primary care services; much more in the kilometers-far,cash-strapped, ill-maintained district or provincial hospitals.”
“That is why in this historic Mendiola grounds, on the occasion of the administration’s 100 days, we strongly appeal to President Duterte to look into his Department of Health policy direction and programs and exercise his political will to make our common wish of a free, comprehensive and progressive health care for the people come true! The Philippine government can achieve this by following Cuba’s example of resisting privatization and establishing an integrated national health system that is strongly public and shouldered by government thru our taxes,“ Carabeo concluded.