P2.7 billion needed to rebuild Marawi health facilities – Ubial

Mara Cepeda

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P2.7 billion needed to rebuild Marawi health facilities – Ubial
Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial says the government is eyeing to turn Marawi into an 'ideal health system,' with one health station built in every barangay

MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said the government is projecting to spend P2.7 billion for a comprehensive reconstruction of health facilities destroyed in the Marawi siege.

The Department of Health (DOH) chief disclosed the amount during a forum on how armed conflicts affect public health, held at the Manila Diamond Hotel on Monday, July 31. 

“We are in constant meeting with the other sectors in coming up with a comprehensive recovery and reconstruction plan for Marawi…. We estimated P2.7 billion for infrastructure of damaged health facilities and we’re also thinking of rebuilding Marawi into an ideal health system,” said Ubial during the forum. 

She explained the fund is aimed at building one health station in each of Marawi’s 96 barangays, one rural health center for every 20,000 people, one lying-in facility and polyclinic for every 50,000 people, and one hospital bed for every 800 people. 

The goal, said Ubial, is to copy the Cuban model for the healthcare system.

The DOH-run Amai Pakpak Medical Center is the only hospital in Marawi. Ubial said it serves up to 300 to 320 patients even if its capacity is only for 175.  

“So it’s overstretched, but they have about 114 doctors, so they are coping. And they’re hiring contractual nurses and other personnel,” she said.

The P2.7-billion health infrastructure fund has been allotted in the DOH’s proposed budget for 2018. The DOH and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation have a combined allocation of P164.3 billion in the proposed national budget for next year. 

The Department of Budget and Management is ready to release P5 billion for the rehabilitation of Marawi City in 2017.  

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered that P20 billion be set aside for the rehabilitation program. Ubial said the P2.7 billion health infrastructure fund will be taken from this budget. (READ: Duterte creates task force in charge of Marawi rehab)

Government troops on May 23 clashed with homegrown terrorists from the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group in Marawi City, leading the President to declare martial law over Mindanao. Congress has agreed to Duterte’s request to extend martial rule over the region until December 31. 

Deployment of health personnel

According to Ubial, the DOH has deployed over 300 medical and nursing personnel to Marawi. 

“We provide all the medicines, so none of the evacuees are asked to buy the medicines they need. Everything is provided by the Department of Health,” she said

The health chief said several doctors and health personnel from Manila and the Visayas have volunteered to help as well, but the DOH has not deployed them due to the language barrier.  

Instead, the department has trained the staff of Amai Pakpak Medical Center to be able to respond to the needs of evacuees. A total of 811 of these hospital staff received a crash course on mental health.

“So that they will be the ones who will be deployed to evacuation centers,” said Ubial.

A major obstacle, however, is immediate access to the evacuation centers, given the ongoing fighting in Marawi. Ubial said they have advised the health personnel to avoid putting their lives at risk.  

“Our instructions to people in the field as much as possible is they try to get to all evacuees whether they are in the evacuation centers, in the capitol, or the houses. But we instruct them not to put their lives at risk,” said Ubial. 

“So many times, they would want to go Marawi, but they are actually not able to because of the very strict security measures that are implemented by the military. So, at this point in time, we have no control over the military in terms of how easy it is for our personnel to gain access or not,” she added. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.