DOH chief gets rundown on health issues from doctors' group

07/20/2010 - MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Enrique Ona yesterday met with a group of doctors and medical professionals to discuss the issues confronting the health sector.

During the meeting, Ona assured the Alliance of Health Workers and Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) that he would address the issues they have raised.

HEAD is demanding the release of the 43 community health workers seized by the military in Morong, Rizal last February on suspicion that they are communist rebels. They also want an increase in the current health budget of P24 billion to P90 billion.

The group is likewise urging the government to stop the planned privatization of government hospitals. They also want more health professionals deployed to remote areas.

HEAD is also asking for an evaluation of the performance of hospital directors because of issues of corruption and abuse against them.

Ona said he was actually convinced to accept President Aquino’s offer for him to head the Department of Health (DOH) because of his promise to increase the budget of the department. “I wish we can get (a budget of) P90 billion. Since it was P24 billion last year our target is to get P60 billion,” he said.

Ona gave assurance that hospitals supervised by the DOH would not be privatized.

He also said that corruption charges against hospital directors should go through the legal process.

He said the Aquino administration intends to expand the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) by attracting more members who can pay the P1,200 premium annually.

He said, however, that some government hospitals could not survive on government budget alone.

“That is our dream, to provide (free) health care services to all. But we have to look at our capacity given that the health sector has not been given that much budget in past years,” he said. (Philippine Star)

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