MANILA, Philippines – Secretary Francisco Duque III has set an ambitious goal for the Department of Health (DOH): Provide universal healthcare for all Filipinos within the next 13 years.
“It’s a moving target. It’s a vision that we would like to realize. But the difference today is we’ve set for ourselves a timeline. It’s really DOH providing the pathway towards health for all by 2030,” said Duque, adding that he plans to suggest specific vision-based steps to DOH’s executive committee.
Duque said his goal is for the Philippines to be a “global leader” in providing equitable healthcare financing, a responsive health system, and better health outcomes to Filipinos, especially to the poor.
The mid-term goal, he said, is to make the Philippines a healthcare leader in the ASEAN region by 2022.
The work is cut out for him. His predecessor, Dr Paulyn Ubial, wanted to provide basic check-up for the 20 million poorest Filipinos between September to December 2016, but this did not materialize. (READ: Duterte’s first year: Philippine health agenda ‘a sham’)
Existing government health facilities, especially in the rural areas, remain neglected. In the first year of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, only 4 out of 10 indigent members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) were covered to settle their hospital bills.
Duque himself had firsthand experience in overseeing a free healthcare program when he became PhilHealth president and chief executive officer from 2001 to 2005.
At the time, PhilHealth’s Greater Medical Access program wants poor people covered by government insurance, but there were questions on whether there were enough government funds to finance the program.
The difference now, said Duque, is that the government has the “benefit” of the sin taxes revenues going to PhilHealth “to sustain the enrolment of the poor segment of the population and the not so poor.”
It begins at the grassroots level
Duque is also eyeing to make the DOH the top performing government agency under the Duterte administration, similar to the time he helmed the department during the Arroyo presidency.
He believes this begins by instilling a certain mindset among DOH employees, who must learn to apply Duque’s overall vision and goals for the department in their day to day work.
“So you see, you cannot do all of these things without leading the way, showing the way. It’s very important to constantly communicate with the organization, with the people in the organization. You don’t just expect people to absorb all of these platitudes, all these excellent mission and vision,” explained Duque.
The DOH chief, who had also previously headed the Civil Service Commission and the Government Service Insurance System, said aligning the operational plan among all health employees and officials is the “hardest part.”
But he remains optimistic, noting that DOH managed to become the number one government agency even with a small budget of P10 billion to P34 billion during his first term. Now, DOH is proposing a P164.8 billion budget for 2018.
“If we were to bring it to number one with our scarce resources or very limited budget at P10 billion initially until about P34 billion, it only means that the DOH has the capability, the capacity to provide services that are impactful and can actually be felt by our people, especially the poor,” said Duque. – Rappler.com