Public health centers incapable of fulfilling Universal Health Care promise: DOH official

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 29 2019 05:32 PM

A health worker has a child weighed for a malnutrition check-up at the Maria Christina evacuation center on Saturday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Public health centers in the country are still incapable of fulfilling the promised benefits of the Universal Health Care program, a Health official said Wednesday, 3 months after President Rodrigo Duterte signed it into law.

Under Republic Act 11223, revenue of government charity institutions and sin tax collection would be pooled with an appropriation from the Department of Health to allow every Filipino to have access to affordable medical, dental, mental, and emergency health services.

"Walang isang municipality, lungsod o lalawigan sa ating bansa na makakatupad na sa pangako ng Universal Health Care. Hindi niya kaya mag-isa," Health Dir. Eric Tayag told ABS-CBN News on the sidelines of an awarding ceremony in Quezon City.

(There is no municipality, city or region in our country that could fulfill the promise of Universal Health Care. It cannot be done alone.)

All health centers in the country still need to improve leadership and governance, health financing, health information, availability of medicines, vaccines, technology, human resource and delivery of services, he said.

"Lahat kailangan pagtuunan ng pansin pero nagsisimula ang lahat sa governance and leadership sapagkat doon lahat nag-uumpisa: ang plano, pano isasagawa ang plano, paano gagastusan ito, paano malalaman ang dapat gawin," he said.

(All aspects must be given attention but everything starts with governance and leadership because that's where you plan the blueprint, implementation, financing, and other things that need to be done.)

There are also several issues beyond the health sector that affects the performance of health centers, Dr. Clemencia Bondoc,
national president of the Association of Municipal Health Officers, said in a separate interview.

About 30 percent of health care facilities in the Philippines lack access to clean toilets, according to a study jointly produced by 2 United Nations (UN) agencies. 

Twenty-three percent of health care facilities in the country have dirty toilets while another 4 percent have no toilets at all, said the the report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Joint Monitoring Program.

"Health care facilities won’t be able to provide quality care to people if there is no safe water, toilet or hand washing facility," said WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr. Gundo Weiler. 

The lack of facilities discouraged public doctors to stay in the industry, Bondoc said.

"That kakulangan sa facilities is now turning into frustrations," she said.

(Lack of facilities add to the frustration.)

"Most of them look at public health as an experience. Once they are done with the 2 years of service, lumilipat sila (they leave)," she said.

Last year, a group of doctors raised concerns about "loopholes" in the then-proposed Universal Health Care program.