What DOH chief learned from trip to Cuba


Posted at Sep 29 2016 11:52 PM

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial has shared some insights she picked up from her recent trip to Cuba, especially on the socialist country's health education system.

In an interview with ANC's Headstart with Karen Davila, Ubial noted that Cuba has one doctor for every 1,075 people, whereas the Philippines has one doctor for every 33,000 people. The World Health Organization recommends one doctor for every 20,000 people.

"In Cuba, the medical school is under the health department. They produce the number of doctors that they need...The education for doctors and health professionals is free," she said.

Although the medical students' tuition, residence, and books are provided by the government for free, there's a catch:

"They have a three-year mandatory service to government, so you actually do not choose where you go; they assign you. Then after three years, you are provided the options to go into specialization," said Ubial.

Doctors in Cuba are paid only around $60 a month, but Ubial believes that benefits they get like free housing, food subsidy, and free education for their children, plus the chance to work in another country, encourage many Cubans to become doctors.

She said the University of the Philippines is trying out a mandatory return service program and they are also advocating for other state-owned universities and colleges. "But the problem before is that the Department of Health didn’t have the budget to pay for salaries of doctors," she said.

She said the Cuban government allocates 26% of its national budget to its health system, while the Philippines only allocates less than 6%.

"We’re making a proposal, like looking at the entire health system and actually providing options—if we do this, this is how much it will take," she said.

Ubial said it would take P82 billion to follow the same model as Cuba's, but the Philippines lacks enough doctors.

Compared to Cuba's six years of medicine study, the Philippine students take nine years to complete their studies, except for UP's Intarmed Program, which downsizes it to six years of schooling and one year of internship.


Ubial also said the Department of Health is "still in the process of studying" the proposal on public hospitals' privatization.

"There has been models and I think that’s also the direction of government: to corporatize so that there will be a sense of business models, but also ensuring that the service patients are not compromised," she said.

"We have four corporate hospitals actually with a particular model, but in the way things have been moving, it seems that they are not able to attain their financial positions and sustainability," she added.