Health department needs ‘healing’, says chief physician

Duque says he believes the Department of Health needs to recuperate, apparently from the bad publicity it had suffered as a result of controversies

Manila: The Philippines health department itself needs healing from the controversies it had endured recently Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has said.

During the recent inauguration of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Country Office in Manila, Duque said he believes that the Department of Health (DOH) needs to recuperate, apparently from the bad publicity it had suffered as a result of controversies surrounding the agency’s decision to haphazardly procure Dengvaxia, a dengue vaccine manufactured by the French pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi Pasteur.

The decision for the large scale purchase of Dengvaxia were made during the administration the final months of the previous president, Benigno Aquino III in 2016.

It was later found out that administering Dengvaxia to patients who had not been previously afflicted with dengue served to worsen the symptoms and at times, lead to death.

The Dengvaxia controversy also endangered the overall immunisation campaign of the government against communicable diseases such as malaria, mumps, rubella and the like as people are now more wary of receiving vaccinations even if it is being administered for free.

Duque said the DOH needs to smarten up from the Dengvaxia controversy if it is to continue to fulfil its mandate effectively.

“It is extremely important to know where we want to bring the DOH in the midst of all the controversies it is facing,” Duque declared … “More importantly, we commit ourselves as we understand that health, alongside education, is truly the driver for genuine social transformation,” the health chief concluded.

The event in Manila last Friday likewise underscores the Philippines participation in the World Health Day. The theme for this year is ‘Ensuring Universal Health Coverage for All Filipinos’.

Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the 2018 national budget provides funding to ensure that all Filipinos can be covered by health services in government hospitals. However, ensuring that every Filipino anywhere in the country can access this free health coverage is another challenge.

“While we have the funds, we must also ensure that government health services reach even the farthest communities in the country. Under the special provision in the DOH budget, the department should prioritise the deployment of doctors, midwives, nurses and other health-related workers to villages with no health workers, geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, indigenous peoples communities, and where the absolute number of poor and the incidence of poverty are high,” she added.

“The health of our people deserves to be on top of the priorities of government. To achieve universal health coverage, we need not only funding but also greater effort to bring health services and health workers to the far-flung communities and to make these health care benefits known by the people, especially the poorest households who are the intended beneficiaries,” Legarda concluded.

Although there is no short supply of Filipino health professional graduates, most who finish schooling opt to work abroad where they receive better pay for their expertise.

Under the present administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, students can avail of free education in medical courses provided they render government service for a certain period.


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