By Ma. Teresa Montemayor
MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) has significantly reduced the country’s vulnerability to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) through its continuous vaccination drive while implementing programs that bolster the healthcare workforce.
In its accomplishment report from July to December 2022, the DOH said an additional 3,100,258 individuals were inoculated against Covid-19, bringing the official tally of fully vaccinated Filipinos to 73,713,573 or 94.5 percent of the eligible population.
At least 6,068,268 Filipinos received the first booster dose, raising the total count to 21,047,212. Meanwhile, 2,843,537 got their second booster shots, pushing the overall sum to 3,691,412.
“Target natin by the first quarter of 2023 ay matanggap na po natin ang unang batch ng bivalent vaccines na kasalukuyan na nating pino-procure at sine-secure through our COVAX Facility process at iba pang mga (By the first quarter of 2023, we target to receive the first batch of bivalent vaccines which we’re procuring and securing through our COVAX Facility process and other) bilateral agreements,” DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said recently.
Healthcare workers’ benefits
For the healthcare workforce, the DOH was able to provide benefits based on the existing laws.
“We have given special risk allowance, sickness and death compensation, Health Emergency Allowance which was previously known as the One COVID Allowance,” Vergeire said.
As of Dec. 28, about PHP1.5 billion has been distributed to 73,711 healthcare workers under Batches 5 and 6 for the special risk allowance.
Vergeire also said that around PHP421.2 million was given to 27,899 beneficiaries of Covid-19 sickness and death compensation, and PHP12.2 billion were paid to 1,666,638 workers for their health emergency allowance.
New PhilHealth benefits
The DOH has also established Malasakit Program Office units in 17 centers for health development and launched new benefits under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), including outpatient drug benefits and adjusted All Cases Rates.
It also established an additional four Malasakit Centers nationwide which brought the total number of Malasakit Centers to 153.
Some 1,430,286 additional patients were served throughout the year with additional assistance amounting to PHP14.6 billion, the health official said.
“For the primary healthcare accomplishments, we have 152 additional licensed primary healthcare facilities and for the Konsulta package of Philhealth, there were 1,377 accredited providers in 2022,” she added.
PhilHealth made a commitment to focus on the digitization of its processes through information technology to better serve the public.
“By studying the best practices in other countries PhilHealth could create digital solutions on problems on claims finding and membership application also in human resources and actuarial valuation,” Vergeire said.
Assistance to indigent patients, NDRRMC
The DOH has further provided a total of PHP11.24 billion in medical assistance to 1,878,650 patients through the Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients Program as of November 2022.
The agency also distributed PHP468.59 million as assistance to all regions for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in Health activities and additional 40 functional specialty centers, bringing to 46 the total number of specialty facilities nationwide.
As the country continues to adapt to the “new normal”, the DOH has decoupled the alert level system restrictions – shifting from a government-mandated restriction to individual and personal risk assessment with government guidance.
e-Arrival system implemented
To ease the flow of tourism that could help boost the economy, the DOH worked on the institutionalization of the e-Arrival system as part of the significant policies aimed at ensuring sound macroeconomic fundamentals.
The introduction of the eArrival card is part of the current administration’s plan to ease the stringent entry protocols to attract more tourists. It removes unnecessary information fields, allowing the easier and faster completion of the traveler registration process.
Other policies, guidelines
The DOH also issued “healthy public policies,” including the national policy on the prevention and control of the use of tobacco products and other similar products; guidelines for ethical and responsible reporting and portrayal of suicide in the media; and guidelines on healthy settings framework in learning institutions.
“Ilan po sa ating mga priority bills, unang-una na ang Philippine Center for Disease Control at ang Health Auxiliary Response Team ay pumasa na po sa third reading sa House of Representatives, both bills are expected to be enacted into law sa darating na taon na 2023 (Some of our priority bills, first of all the Philippine Center for Disease Control and the Health Auxiliary Response Team have passed the third reading in the House of Representatives, both bills are expected to be enacted into law in 2023),” Vergeire said.
Public health workers’ scholarship programs
Moreover, the health department also noted some 80,907 enrollees of the DOH e-learning modules and an additional 653 pre-service and in-service scholars, bringing the total to 2,230.
To bolster the healthcare workforce, the DOH has launched international scholarship programs for 50 public health professionals and led the development of a scholarship program with the Philippine-American Educational Foundation to facilitate the grant of scholarships and research programs and exchanges under the DOH’s capacity-building and research initiatives as provided in the Universal Health Care Law.
To make their plans and programs more effective in the coming years, the DOH has ongoing organizational development activities for the rightsizing of the agency.
Vergeire noted some of their offices have already started studies on their structures and processes.
“Last November, together with the partners of the global fund, bureaus of the public health services team of the DOH performed workshops and interviews to assess the current plans and programs and development of strategies for the next medium term,” she said.
The DOH also worked on the modernization of Food and Drug Administration systems for License to Operate, Compassionate Special Permit and Certificate of Product Registration through the implementation of the automated application process. (PNA)