TECHSHAKE, a Philippine-based startup community builder, in partnership with Hong Kong-based independent corporate finance advisory boutique Index-Asia, recently hosted “COVID-19’s Impact on Heathcare Delivery in Southeast Asia.” The online event gathered experts and business professionals for a discussion on the pandemic’s impact on investment decisions and strategies for corporates and investors.
Dr. Jaemin Park, healthcare director of Index-Asia moderated the online panel discussion held via Zoom, noted that while some sectors benefited from the pandemic, others have suffered.
“The COVID-19 impact is not uniform and there is a notion in the business community that healthcare is not doing very well during this tough time,” Park said.
Inequitable access to healthcare and insufficient capacity and manpower resources were the main challenges, noted Dr. Manuel Francisco Roxas, advisor at Ayala Healthcare Holdings Inc. and director at the Philippine College of Surgeons.
“We are supposed to be improved by the passage of the Universal Healthcare Act (UHC) and the National Integrated Cancer Control Act. Unfortunately, the implementation has been slowed down because of the pandemic,” he said.
During the pandemic, he stressed the lack of a centralized and coordinated inter-hospital response; limited capacity for testing and contact tracing, significant strain on hospital manpower, resources, supply-chain delivery and finances; risks to PhilHealth particularly with increased coverage and implementation of UHC Act; high healthcare worker infection rate; and collateral damage to non-coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
Understanding what the pandemic has exposed, he cited the need to increase total healthcare expenditure by two to three times current levels (8 to 12 percent of GDP); rapidly implement the UHC law and primary care services; strengthen Department of Health capabilities for greater ability to orchestrate overall hospital response and allocate healthcare manpower, enhanced capability for testing, contact tracing, data gathering and analytics, and improve and increase critical care facilities and programs; and specialty hospitals for continuity of care in high-mortality conditions like cardiovascular, renal and neurologic diseases as well as cancer.
The Ayala group has responded to this crisis, Roxas said.
Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman and chief executive officer of Ayala Corp., said it has been serendipitous as they were able to build a healthcare practice at a time when the country needs it much.
Fernando Zobel de Ayala, president and chief operating officer of Ayala Corp., said AC Health aims to provide services for a broader segment of Filipinos and to create value beyond financial and operating metrics. A commitment to national development has always been a defining pillar of the Ayala group.
He added that the COVID-19 response of the group has been anchored on the 4Ts framework – triage, testing, treatment, and tracing.
Roxas said the group continues to support government by building additional polymerase chain reaction labs and rolling out a large-scale corporate testing program.
The pandemic has shown the inadequacy of the Philippine healthcare system in dealing with a crisis: insufficient and unequal geographical, and lack of data capture, analytics and interoperable technology requirements.
The Philippine healthcare sector will face massive disruption and consolidation, and the group is committed to investing in the sector moving forward.
AC Health’s investments are geared toward an integrated healthcare ecosystem: distributed clinical networks for broad reach into the communities, families and employees; large-scale specialty hospital for depth and smaller multi-specialty hospitals for breadth; affordable diagnostics and medicines for all with efficient supply-chain and distribution; and digital health and data analytics, all in one platform to tie everything together.
“It is probably a blessing that we invested in healthcare when we did, which was just a few years ago,” said Roxas, quoting Paolo Borromeo, president and chief executive officer of AC Health.