Health advocates urged the government last week to give priority to the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act to improve the country’s health care system amid the raging pandemic.
In an online forum hosted by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute on Feb. 19, a new coalition of health advocacy groups called “UHC Watch” presented their manifesto before the Department of Health and health stakeholders asserting the rights of Filipinos to quality health services.
UHC Watch is a coalition of civil society groups: CitizenWatch Philippines, Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations, Health Justice and Bantay Konsyumer, Kalsada, Kuryente.
In his message during the event, the Undersecretary for Health Policy and Systems Development Team, Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde said “The Universal Health Care Act addresses fragmentation issues in service delivery through the integration of local health systems. To this end the DOH issued the policy on integration of local health systems into province- wide and citywide health systems.”
Former Secretary of Health and Health Justice Philippines Board Member Jaime Galvez-Tan said “Although the Philippines have shown significant improvements, our health care system is still dealing with inequities and new challenges that threaten the health of its population while Filipinos continue to suffer a heavy financial burden from health spending.
The UHC Watch Manifesto pushed for the following action plans:
A. For the government to prioritize the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law, together with other health laws and allocate resources for their operationalization based on sound data and evidence-based information.
B. Calls on the government for the urgent improvement of the public health system and adopt measures that will ensure comprehensive, accessible, quality health services—especially for the most vulnerable sectors of society like women, children, the elderly, people with disability and those with chronic illnesses.
C. Demand a transparent and accountable public health system by instituting reform measures to eliminate graft and corruption at all levels.
D. Urge the various key stakeholders—patients, health professionals, patient organizations, local communities, the healthcare industry and the government to proactively collaborate in the decision-making process so that through this whole-of-society approach to the country’s health systems could achieve better health outcomes with a greater sense of accountability in healthcare delivery.
The manifesto emphasized the need for a systemic approach and clear delineation of roles of the key agencies of government and stakeholders towards better performance in the health system to progressively realize universal healthcare in the country.
BK3 Convenor Louie Montemar said “Health is our most urgent personal concern now that the millions of households are in dire straits just trying to get to their next meal. A family member getting sick is the last thing we need. But should this happen, the quality of assistance that will be made accessible thru the UHC programs will be the most important gauge of performance,” Montemar said.
President of the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations Maria Fatima Garcia-Lorenzo said “We need to go beyond knee-jerk responses and activate well established systems to cope with the increased demand for health service. We also see the need to strengthen social entitlements and safety nets as part of a universal service that become accessible to the most vulnerable.”
In the same forum, Former Senator JV Ejercito, a principal author of the UHC law, said “We must persistently remind the government to fulfill its mandate to deliver the programs of these laws. The success of our health programs will foster a productive workforce that will help push the country economic momentum and recovery.”