Duque: Access to primary health care depends on coordination with LGUs

MANILA, Philippines – Will the proposed universal health care law really improve Filipinos' access to health services?

Asked this question during an open forum at a pre-SONA (State of the Nation Address) event, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that it depends on how well coordination with local government units (LGUs) would be carried out.

"There is no absolute yes or an absolute no because first and foremost, agreeably, the Local Government Code of 1992 gave the centralized health care services to the LGUs. But let me just clarify that these are essentially the primary health care services that have been devolved to the LGUs," Duque said on Wednesday, July 11.

He added that the Department of Health (DOH) is in talks with LGUs to create "service delivery networks," which he described as health units that could provide primary health care to residents of an area.

The House of Representatives passed House Bill No. 5784 or the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) bill on 3rd and final reading in September 2017. (READ: House passes bill giving all Filipinos health insurance)

A key feature of the bill leaves the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to coordinate with the DOH on the implementation of the law at the level of LGUs.

It states that LGUs "will be responsible for delivering population and individual-based health services in communities within their respective jurisdictions."

Duque said challenges were mostly observed with barangays that do not prioritize health care or are hard to access due to their remote locations.

He said, however, that this is where the DOH hopes to focus on in terms of ensuring access to health services.

"Please don't doubt the capacity of this administration to pursue a meaningful, lasting society for all in health care in the ending view of achieving universal health care and also putting greater bias on primary health care," Duque said.

Last Monday, July 9, President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent the bill seeking universal health care for Filipinos.

While the House has passed its version of the bill, the counterpart measure in the Senate – Senate Bill No. 1458 – is still pending in the committee level. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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