March 13, 2023 — Compared to other ASEAN countries which invest an average of US $20 per person on health, the Philippines invests only 4% of its GDP on health, or an average of US $6 or about P58 per person. With a deficit in the country’s primary care facilities and with the number of hospital beds not having kept pace with the fast-growing population, how does the Dept of Health plan to surmount this sorry state of healthcare delivery, much more implement fully Universal Health Care in the Philippines?
"A whole of government approach is essential," stated Dept of Health OIC Ma. Rosario Vergeire in a forum held on March 1 at the UP Manila as she acknowledged that 80% of the factors that influence health are non-health care related, referring to the socio-determinants of health. Hence, the goal is to ensure that environments such as schools, communities, and workplaces enable the practice of healthy behaviors through partnership with other agencies.
Fully implementing UHC entails the availability of trained and competent health workers in all provinces both
at the frontline and at the back end.
Vergeire assured that DOH will provide every community in the Philippines access to health centers and barangay health stations, as well as essential primary care medicines. She identified three key initiatives to make this happen. The first is to facilitate the assignment of each Filipino family to their primary care provider. Second is to ensure access to essential medicines through a direct outpatient drug benefit package and the procurement of primary care medicines by local governments, and third is to streamline licensing and accreditation standards for primary care facilities.
She lamented that Filipinos still experience catastrophic spending or are pushed into poverty whenever they pay for their health services, and this mostly happens for inpatient cases compared to outpatient ones. This reflects the low regard for primary care and hospital-centric behavior of Filipinos, who seek medical care when situations already require inpatient services.
"We need to capitalize on our country's position as the source of the best healthcare workers," said Dr. Vergeire. DOH will address the quantity and quality of healthcare workers, not just those serving at the front line but at the back end as well; engage higher education institutions to create programs and render mandatory service; and engage in treaties with other countries that are not merely extractive but mutually beneficial.