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DOH-5 ready to implement UHC law, but doubts emerge over LGU support

DOH officials in Bicol holds a press briefing on Universal Health Care program in Legazpi City.

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Department of Health in Bicol (DOH-5) is ready to implement the universal health care (UHC) law, however, there are doubts over the preparedness of local government units (LGUs). Hence, this has dampened optimism of the success of the reported collaboration.

Questions over the DOH-LGUs partnership emerged after DOH Regional Director Ernie V. Vera noted that LGUs “work autonomously” and are supervised not by DOH but by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“The DOH is ready to implement. We have the funds, we have our stakeholders, and we have the financing structure – the PhilHealth,” Vera said in a press briefing.

He hastened to add: “But the challenge is when we go to the actual implementation at the local level because the health system will be centralized and local government units work autonomously and are under the Department of Interior and Local Government,” said Vera.

To address the challenge, the DOH-5 plans to create a UHC taskforce in each of Bicol’s six provinces.

De Vera said the task force, which will include the DILG, will have two major functions, namely, promote the UHC’s benefits and inform LGUs on the challenges and some of the changes to the health system in the aftermath of the law.

Notwithstanding the apparent problem in its implementation, Kris Bryan T. Baria, supervising nurse at DOH-5, hailed the law as a change for the better.

“UHC will change the current health system into an integrated province-wide and city-wide health system according to its section 19,” Baria said.

“The passing of UHC into law promises a new dawn for better health care in the Philippines,” he added. But the proverbial road to UHC execution in Bicol may not be as thorny as widely thought since UHC is not an unfamiliar territory to DOH-5.

In fact, Vera said that in the last five years, DOH-5 had implemented policies and health care services that are similar to the components of the UHC.

These policies and services will be strengthened and improved with the implementation of UHC, he added. Through the UHC, all Filipinos are automatically enrolled in PhilHealth, enabling them to avail for themselves of the benefits of the insurance program.

Filipinos will be provided with the full spectrum of healthcare, which includes preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care for medical, dental, mental, and emergency health services without worrying about financial difficulties when seeking medical attention.

Apart from the DILG, civil society organizations, apex hospitals, the Association of Municipal Health Officers of the Philippines and Philhealth will compose the taskforce.

Furthermore, a similar taskforce will be formed in the regional level. (PIA-5)

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