Duque: Centralize health care system again

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    NEARLY two decades since it was devolved under the Local Government Code, the Department of Health (DOH) is now pushing for the re-centralization of the country’s healthcare system.

    Speaking at a media forum in Manila, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said it is time for the entire healthcare system to be returned to the national government instead of being at the hands of local government units (LGUs).

    “It might be ripe to review the provisions of Local Government Code on health service devolution,” Duque said, adding: “If there’s an indication on the need to renationalize, then let’s renationalize so we have one unified health system.”

    “Let’s see what is the result after 17 years of experience. What are its impacts? We need to do assessment. Did it do good in health outcomes of people, children, mothers, parents?” he also said.

    Duque said the move is necessary to stop incidents of health services being placed at the mercy of local officials, including those who do not see it as a priority.

    “If health is not a priority of the local official, health programs and services are compromised. If they don’t put enough money, then we have problems,” he said.

    Proof of this, Duque said, is the lack of access to vaccines for diseases, such as measles, polio, and diphtheria, in some local health facilities.

    “We provide free vaccines and the responsibility of the LGU is to give us a report of stock outs. We don’t have enough people to do the stock monitoring at the local level,” he said.

    Duque also noted the presence of some local officials who refuse to be included as healthcare provider networks under the Universal Health Care program.

    He likewise said there are some officials who refuse to surrender their supervisory power over health facilities in their areas because “they don’t want to lose their power over their health workers.”

    Duque said he has already made the proposal to the Senate and the House of Representatives.

    The Local Government Code provided for the devolution of the support and supervision of local public hospitals and health centers from the DOH to LGUs.

    Duque said the forthcoming implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) program will be a good kick-off point to marginally centralize the healthcare system anew.

    The DOH is set to sign today, Thursday, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the UHC Law or Republic Act No. 11223.

    It was back in February when President Duterte signed the UHC Law, which entitles all Filipinos to health coverage that is expected to lower their out-of-pocket health expenses.