President Duterte’s 6 years: PH health system has become more people-centered – DOH

Published June 24, 2022, 12:02 AM

by Analou de Vera

The country’s health system which has become more “people-centered” with the passage of two landmark laws is the legacy in health care that President Duterte’s six-year administration will leave behind when his term ends on June 30, 2022.

The two landmark laws are the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act and Malasakit Centers Act which were among the key health accomplishments of the Duterte administration outlined by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during his presentation of the “Duterte Legacy” last June 1.

Polyclinic in Libertad, Antique.. (DOH photo)

This administration “has brought forth many reforms in the health sector” despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, Duque said.

“The response to the Covid-19 pandemic even expedited several UHC-related initiatives, and these initiatives further strengthened the integration of our local health systems into province-wide and city-wide health systems,” he said.

“The reforms we have set are paving the way to improve the health system in the Philippines, placing every Juan and Juana at the center of it all. It has been my great honor to be of service in creating this new legacy for Filipinos and it is my prayer that we continue to walk the path towards true people-centered care,” he said.

Republic Act No. 11223, known as the UHC Act, was signed into law last Feb. 20, 2019, and the implementing rules and regulations were signed on Oct. 10, 2019.

Rural Health Unit in Poblacion,Makilala, Cotabato. (DOH photo)

The UHC law expands access to the country’s health system as it mandated the automatic enrollment of all Filipinos in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) National Health Insurance Program.

“[This is] part of our commitment to ensure protection against financial risk for every Filipino, moving towards greater equity. This year, 100 percent of the Filipino population or over 111 million are already covered by the National Health Insurance Program,” said Duque.

The DOH also managed to develop “60 critical policies and operational guidelines” that are essential for the implementation of the UHC Act, said Duque.

These policies include administrative orders, department orders, and joint issuance with other government agencies and entities, “all geared towards the progressive realization of UHC for every Juan and Juana in the areas of service delivery, health systems integration, health regulation, health financing, and governance accountability,” said Duque.

DOH photo

Playbooks on diet and physical activity, environmental health, immunization, substance use, mental health, sexual and reproductive health, as well as violence and injury prevention were developed in 2021, said Duque.

The DOH also funded the development of various health infrastructure projects for primary care facilities—”as the first point of contact in the healthcare system,” he said. These projects include: 7,796 barangay health stations; 3,259 rural health units; 34 polyclinics; 1,798 local government hospitals; 639 DOH hospitals; 14 quarantine facilities; 34 treatment and rehabilitation centers; and seven regional offices.

In support of the local government units’ capacity in delivering health services, the DOH deployed Human Resources for Health to priority areas, including the Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs), he said.

“An average of 27,400 Human Resources for Health per year were deployed to underserved areas in LGUs from 2017 until 2021,” said Duque.

It is in the prices of medicines that the people have felt the government’s work.

According to Duque, the maximum retail price of certain drugs and medicines were “adjusted to reflect their exemption from the value-added tax.” This is in accordance with Republic Act No. 9502 or the Universally Accessible, Cheaper, and Quality Medicines Act and the UHC Act, said Duque.

“Because of the Maximum Retail Price regulation, the price of medicines for top-burden diseases were reduced by up to 93 percent…And this continuously benefits special population groups, such as patients with chronic kidney disease and liver transplantees, among others,” he added.

Malasakit Centers

The health chief also highlighted Republic Act 11463, signed Dec. 3, 2019, or the Malasakit Centers Act, which he described as a “one-stop shop” that aims to address the health concerns of indigent patients.

“This law aims to provide streamlined access to people-centered care, serving as a one stop shop for patient navigation and referral to the health care provider networks and a point of service for indigent and financially-incapacitated individuals availing of financial and medical assistance,” said Duque.

More than 151 Malasakit Centers have been established in various hospital premises nationwide, he said.
Giving assistance to indigents is the Medical Assistance to Indigent Patient Program (MAIPP) which has provided financial assistance to over 3.6 million patients from January 2018 to December 2021,” he added.

Covid-19 recovery

The DOH also spearheaded the country’s Covid-19 vaccination which started on March 1, 2021.

As of June 20, 2022, more than 70 million Filipinos have been fully-vaccinated against Covid-19; and 14.8 million individuals have already received their booster shots.

The Philippines also improved its ranking, stepping up to the 33rd spot in the Covid-19 recovery rankings of  Tokyo-based news magazine Nikkei Asia released June 3.

Telemedicine services

To reach out to the sick especially during the lockdowns when the Covid cases were high, the DOH launched its telemedicine service program in 2020. The program has attended to more than 379,900 consultations.

“This is not just the future but the future is here today with our expanded telemedicine capacity, precisely to improve access by our people for the different levels of healthcare services,” he said.

End of polio outbreak

Amid the difficult challenges of the pandemic, the country managed to end the polio outbreak which re-emerged in the country in September 2019.

“We also achieved milestones in the public health programs. One of such is the successful conduct of the ‘Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio’ in 2019 to 2020 despite the limitations brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Duque.

In the first quarter of 2020, the DOH has managed to immunize “95 percent of the target children to stop the spread of polio.”

“The World Health Organization recognized the incredible efforts mounted against the polio outbreak during the Covid-19 pandemic and officially declared the end of the polio outbreak in the country last June 3, 2021,” he said.

Duque said that all of these accomplishments of the state-health agency “are a testament to the commitment of the DOH in its pursuit of the realization of universal health care.”