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Duterte’s administration’s health-care system is “people-centered,” according to Duque.

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has implemented health-care changes that are people-centered.

Despite the problems posed by the Covid-19 outbreak, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III stated the government was committed to implementing the Universal Health Care (UHC) law and expanding the Malasakit Center network.

“During the Duterte administration’s term from July 2016 to 2022, many reforms in the health sector were implemented, particularly with the passage of the Universal Health Care Act and the Malasakit Centers Act,” Duque said Tuesday at the Duterte Legacy Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

On February 20, 2019, Duterte signed the Universal Health Care Act, or Republic Act No. 11223, into law, allowing the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to “enter into a significant health reform” in the country.

The extension of population, service, and financial coverage through a variety of health system reforms is one of the most notable elements of the UHC law. A planned paradigm shift to primary care, which is at the heart of all health changes under the UHC, is also planned.

All Filipinos are guaranteed fair access to excellent and inexpensive health care goods and services, as well as protection from financial risk, under the UHC Act.

The UHC aims to ensure that every Filipino is healthy, safe from health hazards and risks, and has access to inexpensive, high-quality, and easily accessible health care that is tailored to their specific requirements.

Several UHC-related efforts were accelerated as a result of pandemic responses, according to Duque.

“These measures strengthened our local health systems’ integration into provincial and city-wide health systems,” he continued.


Duque said the DOH created 60 fundamental policies and operational guidelines that are crucial for the law’s implementation following the passing of the UHC Act and the proclamation of its implementing rules and regulations.

Administrative orders, department orders, and joint issuance with other government agencies and entities are among the policies compiled, according to Duque, and are “all geared toward the progressive realization of UHC for every Juan and Juana in the areas of service delivery, health systems integration, health regulation, health financing, and governance accountability.”

The Department of Health also ensured tight collaboration and involvement with local government units (LGUs) and other key national agencies, which are vital to the UHC’s success.

LGUs, the Department of Health, and PhilHealth signed 17 tripartite agreements to establish UHC Integration Sites, according to Duque.

He said, “This formalized LGU engagement in changing their local health systems into province-wide and city-wide health systems.”

The Department of Health created the local health system maturity levels to “guide and capacitate” local governments in implementing UHC.

As a result, LGUs made substantial progress in their readiness for the Covid-19 pandemic beginning in 2020.

The DOH created a series of e-modules available through the DOH Academy to further promote UHC among stakeholders.

It also created health promotion playbooks to serve as ready-to-use tools for local government units (LGUs) in executing health promotion activities and assisting local health care.

According to Duque, the UHC Act stipulated that all Filipinos be automatically enrolled in PhilHealth’s National Health Insurance Program.

“This is part of our resolve to protect every Filipino from financial danger as we move toward greater equity,” he added.

The National Health Insurance Program, according to Duque, covers nearly 111 million people.

The Department of Health (DOH) increased service delivery under the Duterte administration through health infrastructure projects for primary care institutions, which serve as the initial point of contact in the healthcare system.

Infrastructure projects

The government-sponsored the construction of 7,796 Barangay Health Stations, 3,259 Rural Health Units, and 34 polyclinics through the Department of Health’s Health Facilities Enhancement Program.

DOH completed the construction of 1,798 LGU hospitals and 639 DOH hospitals, as well as 14 quarantine facilities, 34 treatment and rehabilitation centers, seven regional offices, and other National Government Agencies programs, as part of the same program.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Duque noted, “we have scaled up various UHC projects to enhance and assist LGU capacity in providing health services.”

Through the National Health Workforce Support System, the Department of Health increased the deployment of Human Resources for Health to priority areas such as Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas, with an average of 27,400 human resources per year deployed to underserved LGUs from 2017 to 2021.

During the ongoing epidemic, the Department of Health started its telemedicine service program, which played a critical role in providing accessible health care.

“Since its inception in 2020, this program has received over 379,900 consultations. “Ang laki po ng tulong nito (This was a great help), especially during surges,” Duque added. “This is one of the services made available by our One Hospital Command Center, which is a component of the National Patient Navigation and Referral System.”

Telemedicine consultation, according to the health chief, can greatly benefit bedridden patients by eliminating the need for them to go from their homes to hospitals.

“With our expanded telemedicine capacity, the future is here today, particularly to better access by our people to the many levels of healthcare services,” he explained.

“Usually, it starts with teleconsultation, and from there, we’ll figure out what the patient’s clinical condition is, and then refer them to the most suitable level of treatment through our National Patient Navigation and Referral System,” he explained.

Treatment is more affordable, and medications are less expensive.

The maximum retail price of certain pharmaceuticals and medicines was amended to reflect their exemption from the value-added tax under Republic Act No. 9502, or the Universally Accessible, Cheaper, and Quality Medicines Act, and the UHC Act, according to Duque.

“The maximum retail price is a price cap on medicines that are given to customers, which implies that our vital medicines can now be obtained at a significantly lower cost.” “Maraming, maraming salamat po kay (Thank you very much, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte),” Duque expressed his gratitude.

Duque claimed that Duterte ensured that Filipinos, particularly those on maintenance medications, received high-quality, effective, and safe medications.

The Maximum Retail Price law, according to Duque, decreased the price of medicines for high-burden diseases by up to 93 percent.

“This has had a significant impact on our personnel. And special population groups, such as individuals with chronic kidney disease and liver transplantees, continue to benefit,” he noted.

Milestones in public health

“We also made significant breakthroughs in our public health initiatives.” “One example is the successful implementation of the ‘Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio’ in 2019 and 2020, despite the limits imposed by the Covid-19 epidemic,” Duque stated, stressing that 95 percent of the target pediatric population had received polio vaccination by the first quarter of 2020.

Duque also mentioned Republic Act 11463, or the Malasakit Centers Act, which was signed into law on December 3, 2019, and aims to improve access to “people-centered care” by creating a one-stop-shop for patient navigation and referral to health-care provider networks, as well as a point of service for indigent people seeking financial and medical assistance.

As of May 26, a total of 151 Malasakit Centers had been established at DOH-run hospitals.

From January 2018 to December 2021, about 3.6 million patients benefited from the Malasakit Program Office’s Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients Program, according to Duque.

“These achievements demonstrate the Department of Health’s dedication to bringing the UHC Act to fruition. Gradually, the reforms we’ve implemented are paving the path for the Philippines’ health system to improve, with every Juan and Juana at the heart,” he stated. “It has been a great honor to be a part of creating this new legacy for Filipinos, and it is my hope that we will continue on our journey toward true people-centered care.”

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