Solons subject DoH budget to close scrutiny

LAWMAKERS grilled health officials over several issues before approving the proposed Department of Health budget for 2020.

DOH officials were asked to explain various problems such as poor Reproductive Health (RH) promotion, delayed procurement of medicines, expired medicines, and PhilHealth single modality.

The lawmakers raised the issues during the discussions of the DOH programs and projects to be funded by the agency in 2020.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the DOH has a budget proposal of P160.15 billion for next year, which is five percent lower than its 2019 budget.

About 90 percent of their budget goes to the Office of the Secretary (OSEC) for its operations.

For 2020, he said 46 percent of the DOH-OSEC budget shall be for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE), 44 percent for Personal Services, and 10 percent for Capital Outlay.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the approval of their budget requests will be crucial to ensure the success of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) for HIV patients especially in light of the high cost of the needed drugs for ART.

Duque said they will use most of the additional funding to secure additional drugs for ART. At present, Duque said the existing 125 HIV treatment hubs nationwide have medication for ARTs until the first week of September for their 37,091 patients.

But he assured the lawmakers that new batches of ART drugs will be arriving on time. “This is going to be addressed because of the new batches of ARTs to be delivered by September,” Duque said.

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman  said there is a mandate under the RH Law for RH promotion nationwide.

“May we know what has been conducted by the DOH, how much is the funding for 2020 for this nationwide campaign and what are the components of the health promotion program,” Lagman asked.

Vergeire  said the DOH has a total budget of P154 million for the promotion of the  Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, also known as the Reproductive Health Law.

Vergeire  said the DOH allotted P55 million for the Family First Media Placement in different television and radio stations.

The DOH also allotted P3 million for the “Purple Ribbon Award” for achievers of family planning in the local government units (LGUs) and other agencies and the safe motherhood and adolescence program specifically for teenage pregnancy which is part of the RPRH, said Vergerie.    

Taking up a PhilHealth issue, Bohol Rep. Edgar Chatto asked why the DOH and PhilHealth abandoned the idea of point of care and substituted this to one single modality or point of service.

In the previous modality using point of care, Chatto said LGUs could help by using their own funds.

Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor said one of the causes of the delay in the procurement of medicines worth about P170 million was that the DOH bought them without waiting first for the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Defensor said the DOH had expired medicines worth P30 million.

“What action would we take — administrative action? There is a violation of the procurement law,”  Defensor stressed.