New health chief should prioritize pandemic preparedness, access to healthcare – group

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 6) — A doctors' group listed some areas that should be prioritized by Ted Herbosa, who took his oath on Tuesday as the new head of the Department of Health (DOH). 

“We still have the pandemic, for me that is the number one priority,” Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) President Rontgene Solante told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

Despite the World Health Organization’s lifting of the public health emergency, Solante said the new health secretary should lay out long-term plans for vaccination, and improve health care facilities for possible pandemics in the future.

To further strengthen the country’s healthcare system, the DOH should also iron out plans for the establishment of different major facilities like the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Virology Institute of the Philippines, and diagnostic centers across the country, he added.

“These are things that will make us more concrete in terms of how should we be in the next 5-6 years and how we will cope up with the next pandemic,” Solante said.

Another important matter that Herbosa should focus on is the implementation of the Universal Health Care law, Solante added.

“This a law that will really put something in terms of delivery of health towards the poor and equality of these services, including those who are in the far-flung areas and the needy,” he noted.

The PCP president said the top causes of morbidity and mortality in the Philippines are related to chronic diseases, like heart disease, and diabetes.

“The Universal Health Care law will focus on preventing this, and putting this measure into implementation will be vital in curbing morbidity and mortality related to these diseases,” he explained.

To utilize the benefits of the law, Solante said the DOH should start implementing different healthcare networks across the country.

“This is also a way on how we can strengthen the healthcare system because when you improve the healthcare delivery, it goes with it that you will also improve the healthcare facilities,” he pointed out. “Health consultation and care will now be accessible in any part of the country.”

Solante also emphasized the need to strengthen the role of healthcare workers and implement programs that will encourage them to work in the Philippines and not abroad.

Herbosa’s appointment not welcome

Speaking to CNN Philippines’ Balitaan, Alliance of Health Workers President Robert Mendoza said the group does not welcome Herbosa’s appointment as health chief.

Mendoza claimed that the new DOH secretary was allegedly behind the push to privatize public hospitals in 2010 to 2015 when the latter served as the department’s undersecretary, an assertion Herbosa has already denied.

With his appointment, Mendoza said one of the things he should prioritize is the increase in salary of healthcare workers.

To address understaffing, the DOH chief should also stop contractualization and fill up the almost 21,000 vacant plantilla positions in the department, Mendoza added.