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Governors press integration of local health programs amid Covid pandemic

 

AS the nation continues to grapple with devastation wrought by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), provincial leaders agreed that it’s now time to consolidate the health systems in place across local governments for efficient delivery of necessary health care to the people.

“The needed thing is integration. How we will be able to integrate the curative, promotive and preventive functions in such a way that we will be able to deliver the health services that are needed by our constituents down to the barangay level,” Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores said during the online Zuellig Family Foundation’s learning series tackling the provincial initiatives to mitigate Covid-19 risks.

The current problem, Miraflores said, is that there seems to be no cohesive program among the provinces and municipalities throughout the country.

“So what is needed is how to harmonize all of these by law, by programs or UHC [Universal Health Care]. That integration is a must in the provincial level so that we can answer the needs of our constituency much better,” he noted.

While sharing the same idea with him, Agusan del Sur Gov. Santiago Cane Jr. reiterated that the existing Local Government Code of 1991 need not have to be changed in order for the consolidation of health initiatives to push through.

“What is there to be amended? The curative, preventive and promotive [functions are already delegated to the] local government units. It’s with us since 1992,” he stressed.

In 1991, the Philippine government introduced a major devolution of national government services, which included the first wave of health industry reform, through the introduction of the Local Government Code.

The following year, it transferred the management and delivery of health services from the Department of Health to locally elected provincial, city and municipal governments.

Despite this, however, fulfilling such tasks have become problematic due to lack of funds, according to Bataan Gov. Albert Garcia.

“The health functions have already been devolved since 1992 with the passing of the Local Government Code, but the money was not devolved. So this is a subject of a very controversial discussion that has been happening for many, many years now,” he said.

“Imagine the functions, or the responsibilities were devolved, and yet the national government agency that is in charge of health [or] supposedly devolved functions still has a lot of [appropriation] as the years go by instead of these funds being [allotted] down to the local governments,” he pointed out.

Because of financial constraints, Garcia said they “have limited capabilities when it comes to delivering the health services that is much needed.”

The governor believes, though, that combining all the different levels of health services and functions into the provincial level will help solve the disunity in the system.

“Learning from this pandemic, even if you don’t unite these different levels of services in the province, but if we put in place an integrated system, we can still function as one even if our levels of health is fragmented,” he said.

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