By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto urged on Wednesday the Department of Health (DOH) to “transfuse” funds for some of its programs to its efforts addressing the national dengue epidemic.
The DOH declared a national dengue epidemic due following the rapid increase of dengue cases in the country, which, as of July 20, already killed 622 people.
Recto, in supporting the DOH’s efforts, suggested to make use of the appropriations for the agency’s “slow-moving” programs to its anti-dengue front, including shoring up the capacity of government hospitals to handle the surge of dengue patients.
The Senate leader cited the Commission on Audit’s (COA) 2018 report for the DOH, finding that of the P109.4 billion it received in allotments, P103.3 billion was obligated, but only P66.9 billion was disbursed by the agency.
This leaves an unexpended balance of P36.4 billion, the COA report said.
“Based on the latest COA audit report, DOH seems to be inflicted with a fund malabsorption disease. It cannot have one program suffering from funding overdose while others are hit by budget anemia,” Recto said in a statement.
But Recto said he understood that “many of the headaches of the present DOH leadership were inherited,” such as the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP).
State auditors said that more than P4.5 billion worth of HFEP infrastructure projects were delayed, remained idle, and defective, among others.
Aside from fund “transfusion”, Recto said the DOH should also address its drug overstocking problem.
The COA, in the same report, said the DOH has yet to distribute drugs and medicines worth some P18.5 billion it procured from 2015 to 2018. Drugs and medicines worth P367.2 million were about to expire in the DOH warehouse.
“It must declog its funding and logistical arteries,” Recto said.
Despite this, the senator called on the public to support the DOH in its “war” against the dengue epidemic.
“I welcome the positive steps the DOH has taken to defeat the epidemic. There is no magic pill against the virus,” he said.
“Let us support the DOH in its fight against dengue. But the declaration of a national epidemic is like announcing the diagnosis. Now comes the hard part of battling dengue,” he appealed.