Groups hope for a pro-people health secretary

Jun. 03, 2016

DAVAO CITY – Health groups asked the incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint a new secretary for the Department of Health who will “uphold the interest of the people instead the capitalist.”

The Health Alliance for Democracy (Head), said in a statement that the next health secretary should work for the strenghtening of the public health care system.

“A community-based approach to health care must be established, which will ensure that the marginalized poor and far-flung rural areas has access to much-needed health services,” said Head Chairperson Dr. Darby Santiago.

Santiago said that in order to better serve the majority of the Filipinos, the next DOH secretary “must renounce the policy of privatization of public hospitals facilities and services.”

According to the Head, privatization of government-owned hospitals is rampant in the outgoing administration of President Benigno Aquino III; such as the Philippine Orthopedic Center and Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital.

The privatization of hospitals, according to Dr. Santiago, made higher cost of health care serivces which becomes inaccessible to the poor.

Dr. Santiago also said that “as a basic right, health care should be free, accessible, and available for the poor, deprived and oppressed Filipinos.”

A Mindanao-based health organization, Mindanao Foundation for Medical Disaster Preparedness and Response Inc. said that as a first step for the next DOH secretary, is to strenghten rural heath because “the problem now is the hospital is centralized in the urban areas.”

“That is why big hospitals like Southern Philippines Medical Center (in Davao) is congested,” said Marrion Solis of MDPRII.

Solis added that unless “that ratio of health care worker to patients will not meet, it will not be effective.”

He also added that nationalist education should be implemented on the health workers while they are taking their undergraduate or graduate courses.

“For we have shortage of health workers because they are profit-oriented, most of them prefer of working overseas rather than being community health workers,” he added.

He said that the next health secretary should be able to “regulate the prices of medicines and to subsidize research on the production of local medicines and traditional medicines.”

Head, meanwhile, challenged the next DOH secretary to work for the interest and welfare of the health workers.

Dr. Santiago said that the wages of the health workers should be increased, ensuring their benefits and security of tenure and to recognize their right to organize and unionize. (

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