Private hospitals call on Duterte to replace Duque as health chief

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2020 06:25 PM | Updated as of May 26 2020 12:28 AM

FILE: Health Sec. Francisco Duque

MANILA — (UPDATE) An organization of private hospitals on Monday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to replace Health Secretary Francisco Duque III with "someone who can deliver the goods better." 

In a letter sent to Duterte, Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PHAPi) President Dr. Rustico Jimenez said that their members “feel that they have [had] enough of the promises of PhilHealth and the Department of Health both government agencies respectively chaired and headed by Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.”

“Just to cite among the most important one, our members are given the run around by PhilHealth when asked about the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM),” he said, explaining that although some have already received their share, “most however are now so financially drained as they are still waiting for the promised IRM.”

“For this reason, the PHAPi, an association of Seven Hundred Forty Four (744) member private hospitals, now respectfully requests for the replacement of Dr. Francisco T. Duque III as DOH Secretary and Chairman of PhilHealth and appoint someone who can deliver the goods better in addressing the health concerns of the country,” Jimenez added.

In a phone interview with ABS-CBN News, Jimenez said Malacanang already received the letter.

“We have given him at least 3 weeks to recover. Nung una sabi ko wag na muna sya palitan but after that wala nang improvement nagworsen pa eh (At first I said we should not replace him but there has been no improvement and it even worsened),” he said of the health secretary.

Back in April, PHAPi and three other major medical organizations expressed support for Duque despite some senators calling for his resignation. They even gave the health secretary a 10 out of 10 score for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis. 

At that time, at least 14 senators signed a resolution against Duque because of his “lack of foresight and inefficiency.”

The senators said the health official failed to implement necessary precautions, including delayed travel restrictions on China and reported lack of transparency.

During that time, there were many reports of hospitals running out of personal protective equipment and health workers getting infected by the disease.

“Lumabas pa yung mga corruption. na patong patong sa pagbibili, overpriced, pati overprice sa PhilHealth (Allegations of corruption also surfaced — the buying of overpriced supplies, overpriced PhilHealth). So we think he should be changed,” Jimenez said.

Asked who they want to replace Duque, Jimenez said it will be up to Malacañang.

Earlier Monday, Senator Panfilo Lacson said there are 170,000 licensed physicians in the Philippines who are “more honest and competent” than Duque.

Duque, who was appointed health chief in 2017, had drawn flak over how his office handled the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Duque previously served as health chief from June 2005 to January 2010 under then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He was also chairman of the Civil Service Commission during the Aquino administration.

ABS-CBN is trying to reach Duque for comment as of posting.