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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Lawmakers grill DOH officials on RH promotion, expired drugs, PhilHealth system
28 August 2019 09:09:51 PM

Members of the House Committee on Appropriations chaired by Rep. Isidro Ungab (3rd District), on Wednesday grilled officials of the Department of Health (DOH) on various issues, among them Reproductive Health (RH) promotion, delayed procurement of medicines, expired medicines, and PhilHealth single modality.

The lawmakers raised the issues during the discussions of the DOH programs and projects to be funded by the agency in 2020. Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the DOH has a budget proposal of P160.15 billion for next year, which is five percent lower than its 2019 budget.

Duque said about 90 percent of their budget go to the Office of the Secretary (OSEC) for its operations. For 2020, he said 46 percent of the DOH-OSEC budget shall be for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE), 44 percent for Personal Services, and 10 percent for Capital Outlay.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the approval of their budget requests will be crucial to ensure the success of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) for HIV patients. especially in light of the high cost of the needed drugs for ART.

Duque said they will use most of the additional funding to secure additional drugs for ART. At present, Duque said the existing 125 HIV treatment hubs nationwide have medication for ARTs until the first week of September for their 37,091 patients.

But he assured that new batches of ART drugs will be arriving on time. "This is going to be addressed because of the new batches of ARTs to be delivered by September,” Duque said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Edcel Lagman (1st District, Albay), said there is a mandate under the RH Law for RH promotion nationwide.

“May we know what has been conducted by the DOH, how much is the funding for 2020 for this nationwide campaign and what are the components of the health promotion program,” asked Lagman.

Vergerie said DOH has a total budget of P154 million for the promotion of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, also known as the Reproductive Health Law.

Vergerie said the DOH allotted P55 million for the Family First Media Placement in different television and radio stations.

The DOH also allotted P3 million for the “Purple Ribbon Award” for achievers of family planning in the local government units (LGUs) and other agencies and the safe motherhood and adolescence program specifically for teenage pregnancy which is part of the RPRH, said Vergerie.

She said the awards are for women and child protection, infant young child feeding and breast feeding nutrition, and HIV are part of the budget for the different health promotion funds.

Currently, Vergerie said DOH has an agreement with the Philippine Institute for Development Studies for evaluation of the RPRH law implementation. “We will have our results by the first quarter of next year,” said Vergerie.

On Philhealth issue, Rep. Edgar Chatto (1st District, Bohol) asked why the DOH and the Philhealth has abandoned the idea of point of care and substituted this to one single modality or point of service.

In the previous modality using point of care, Chatto said LGUs can help by using their own funds.

"In the point of service scenario, this is a little bit more difficult. Stringent rules are being applied. If only both the point of care and the point of service can be implemented together or can be availed off as option modalities, then the LGUs can participate in addressing the quick needs of indigents without waiting for other components from the national government. I hope though, that if we continue with solely the point of service, I hope that this will be covered entirely by the Universal Health Care Program,” Chatto said.

Rep. Mike Defensor (Party-list, Ang Kalusugan), said one of the causes of the delay in the procurement of medicines worth about P170 million was that the DOH bought them without waiting first the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“I’m just confused, Mr Chairman. How can the DOH buy medicines which have not been approved. The Secretary mentioned earlier the micronutrients. In fact, those are among the medicines not yet approved by the DFA,” said Defensor.

Defensor said the DOH had expired medicines worth P30 million. “What action would we take, administrative action? There is a violation of the procurement law. I’m only saying this to help us in making sure that the purchasing and distribution will be faster because people from the central office and the regions will now know there will be a penalty (for any violation),” said Defensor. / Eddie Galvez, News and Documentation Section-Press and Public Affairs Bureau/ House of Representatives of the Philippines