Private hospitals group asks Duterte to replace Duque as health secretary

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) — An association composed of 744 private hospitals asked President Rodrigo Duterte to replace Francisco Duque III as health secretary and head of state health insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth with "someone who can deliver the good better in addressing the health concerns of the country."

“We have high regards for him as one of our esteemed colleagues in the healthcare industry, but he seems to be already so exhausted that there is need for a fresh blood and a fresh mind to lead the Department of Health and the PhilHealth,” said Dr. Rustico Jimenez, president of Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PHAPi) in a letter to Duterte.

The association said Duque should be let go over delays in the release of the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM), which stands as financial aid to hospitals hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Although some have already received their share, most, however, are now so financially drained as they are still waiting for the promised IRM,” Jimenez said.

Duterte said in his ninth report to Congress on his administration’s response to COVID-19, PhilHealth has released P13.278 billion to 562 accredited healthcare institutions though the IRM as of May 20.

PHAPi was among the four medical groups that backed Duque as health secretary when senators asked for his resignation over his supposed incompetence at handling the COVID-19 crisis.

Duterte rejected the senators’ calls and merely told Duque to work harder on the country’s COVID-19 response.

But things appeared to have changed in Malacañang as Duterte is reportedly scouting for someone to replace Duque, according to a Philippine Star report.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he is not aware of any reports that Duterte is looking for Duque’s replacement, but said that Cabinet members can be removed anytime if Duterte loses trust in them.

Senators are hoping that the rumors are true, saying that the public’s trust in the Department of Health has eroded over Duque’s supposed flubs.

“The secretary may consider taking the initiative to quit his post as an act of sacrifice especially for the sake of those outside of the [873] dead Filipinos and [14,319] others so far confirmed by DOH as officially infected,” Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said.