Pursue holistic approach to address problems hounding PH healthcare system and factor in the effects of the Mandanas ruling on LGUs capacity – De Lima


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Photos by Dante Diosina Jr/Rappler

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima underscored the need to pursue a holistic approach to strengthen the country’s health care system, which was systematically weakened by yearly budget cuts driven by simultaneous de-prioritization and diversion to confidential funds by the Duterte Administration since 2016, and thereafter strained to the point of near collapse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

De Lima’s message was conveyed on her behalf by her Chief Legal Counsel and Campaign Manager, Atty. Teddy Rigoroso, during the “Doctors For Leni” virtual Town Hall Meeting held last Feb. 11. Also present in the event as guest speaker was retired COMELEC Commissioner Rowena Guanzon.

Noong sinuri namin ang nangyaring pandemya at kung paano halos nag-collapse ang healthcare system, paano na-ostracize yung health workers, we learned that we have to address this in a holistic way,” he said.

The Philippines, with its relatively ill-equipped health system, has been overwhelmed with previous surges of COVID-19 cases, with healthcare workers being neglected. 

It may be recalled that, instead of being strengthened and prioritized, the public health care budget suffered a series of budget cuts under the Duterte Administration, as far back as August 2016, when the budget documents submitted by the President to Congress showed that he reduced the Department of Health’s (DOH) budget by P31B.

Further, in 2019, just before the pandemic hit, funds for health services in the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 that the House of Representatives approved were slashed by about P10 billion, even as the country was facing a polio epidemic as well as dengue and measles outbreaks that have claimed the lives of more than a thousand people, mostly children.

These budget slashes were opposed by opposition lawmakers, including Senator De Lima who, as far back 2016, pointed out that a sincere and holistic approach to a “War on Drugs” requires strengthening the public health care system and treating the problem as, at least, partly a public health care issue, including in the form of addiction and other mental health issues.

In improving the country’s healthcare system, Rigoroso said the government must ensure that people have proper access to health care while also ensuring that healthcare workers are protected and taken care of.

“People’s access at proteksyon ng healthcare workers, because yung mga ginagawa ng ating health institutions at workers ay considered as public. Ika nga, wala kang maitatapon sa ginagawa nila. At dahil dun, may tatlong major aspects na tinitingnan dyan ang office ni Senator Leila,” he said.

First off, Rigoroso said, the government should rationalize the operations of the healthcare system considering the Mandanas ruling which determined that the “just share” of LGUs shall be sourced from “all national taxes and not only national internal revenue taxes.”

Paano i-rationalize ang operations ng ating healthcare system, lalo na in the light of Mandanas ruling, kung saan dinedevolve na itong mga ganitong trabaho at saka yung mga nalikom na buwis ay pupunta na sa LGUs , paano natin ira-rationalize in such a way na ang expenditure mo ay malinaw?” he said.

“Halimbawa, in building public hospitals, dapat may malinaw na pagkukuhanan ng pondo. Kung walang malinaw na five-year program dun, dapat hindi muna magtayo ng ospital, at tingnan paano ma-optimize ang existing hospitals mo,” he added.

Secondly, Rigoroso said it is important to standardize the salary of healthcare workers both in public and private sectors.

“Naiintindihan natin na meron ding capitalist forces, but somehow you have to set a baseline,” he said.

Lastly, Rigoroso pointed out the need to ensure transparency in all public transactions.

Kailangan may some level of system wherein nakikita ng shareholders ang system ng procurement dahil kapag hindi nagiging open source yan, lahat ng kalokohan pwedeng gawin sa dilim,” he stated.

This 18th Congress, De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Bill No. 185 instituting the Magna Carta for Barangay Health Workers to provide just compensation and incentives to health workers.

“With all the undeniably heroic roles and myriad responsibilities of our health workers, especially during a public health crisis, it is only right and important that we also take care of them by providing them just compensation and incentives they deserve,” De Lima said. (30)

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