Medical Orgs, health advocates press strengthening of health workforce in the country

July 23, 2014 6:56 am 

By Leilani S. Junio and Jazon Roque

MANILA, July 22 (PNA)–More than 70 medical organizations and health advocates on Tuesday gathered together and expressed their desire to strengthen the primary health care workforce in the country to fully make the universal health care program of the government effective and truly responsive to the health needs of every Filipino people.

“There is a need for our government to hire more health workers and provide them appropriate compensation and benefits to fill the gaps of lesser number of health care workers serving in remote areas,” said Dr. Esperanza Cabral, former Department of Health (DOH) secretary in a forum initiated by the Philippines College of Physicians (PCP) at the Annabel’s Restaurant, Tomas Morato, Quezon City .

In her speech dubbed as "State of the Nation’s Health Address (SONHA)," Cabral warned that as the population of the country increases, many of the millennium development goals (MDGs) concerning health by 2015 will not be meet if the number of health workforce does not increase.

She cited that if the condition of lack of increase in the number of health workforce being hired persist, the number of health care workers that will take care of the health care program for the growing population will make it difficult for the country to achieve the MDGs.

“The capacity to deliver appropriate medical intervention for the medical needs of the people is being delayed if the need the to hire more doctors, nurses, pediatricians, midwives, dentists and other health care workforce is not properly addressed,” the former DOH chief stressed.

She emphasized also that universal health care (UHC) does not only cover medical facilities and equipment or having funds from PhilHealth to pay the medical service.

“It also concerns the most important aspect—having enough number of health care workers that will give preventive medical attention to the people so that they can also fight non-communicable diseases,” she added.

Dr. Cabral added that they formed a coalition for Primary Care’s call to President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“We want him (referring to Pres. Aquino) to take a look on his forthcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) on how to resolve the issue,” added Dr. Antonio Dans, a UP professor.

Dans said that through a manifesto they signed they are urging the President to hire at least 10,000 health workers and give them proper benefits and incentive packages to keep them working with dignity and prevent them (referring to qualified health workers) from seeking other job opportunities outside the country due to lack of work and small compensations given to medical practitioners in government who are usually under job order contract hiring.

“Since most of them are exposed to different illnesses, the law must also be amended to provide package of benefits for the health workers who are also prone to health risks as they treat the patients conditions or perform their tasks especially in remote areas,” he added.

Dans also said that it is about time that the President will resolve the issue about hiring of the health workforce as some Local Government Units (LGUs) said that it is not their role or priority.

“The DOH also said that the hiring of health care workers is not their role. The PhilHealth officials insisted that it was also not their responsibility, either. We need to decide then who should take responsibility on that which we will push through amendment,” he added.

Dr. Anthony Leachon, PCP President, cited that with the big amount of money from Sin Tax, the government should allocate a portion of that to finance the hiring of additional health workers not only to fully serve the growing population but also to provide more decent jobs to the health workers needed who opted to work on other jobs.

Meanwhile, ANG NARS Party-list congresswoman Leah H. Paquiz expressed support to the advocators of the coalition and committed to help as she cited that she had filed a resolution in congress last March for the investigation on impacts of the devolution of the health care delivery system.

“It is about time to pass a legislation on this to make the universal health care program of the government a dream come true for all Filipinos,” she added. (PNA) CTB/LSJ with a report from Jazon Enriquez Roque (OJT)

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