DOH ramps up drug rehab program

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — After more than half-a-million drug users and pushers turn themselves in to authorities — government agencies are working double time to prepare a rehabilitation program. Experts identified three pillars for the program — assessment, treatment and follow up — and the Department of Health has a role to play in each one.

With the major task the department is facing — and not enough health workers on hand — the DOH started training doctors, nurses, midwives, social workers and baranggay anti-drug council members to help them out. The training is headed by Bicutan Treatment and Rehabilitation Center Chief Alfonso Villaroman.

The Bicutan center is the only government-run rehabilitation center in Metro Manila - and it is already congested. The center is currently squeezing in 1,540 patients in 1,000 beds. "A couple of months ago, we had around 5-6 admissions a day. Now it's usually around 30," says Villaroman. He adds they receive patients not just from Metro Manila, but get queries from Visayas and Mindanao as well.

Villaroman says not all surrenderees need to be admitted in rehabilitation centers. He says majority of them can be treated in their own communities. "We are starting to help health workers by empowering them to assess and do some kind of intervention in their areas also," he said.

But for those needing hospital treatment, PhilHealth already has a case rate package for substance abuse that covers as much as P7,800. This includes P5,460 for the Health Care Institution and P2,340 for the physician. This package may only be used for hospital treatment — drug rehabilitation centers are not accredited to avail these claims.

Villaroman meanwhile says the amount would hardly cover the expenses of a drug rehab patient. He says the program usually lasts anywhere from 6 -12 months - with a minimum cost of P22,000 per patient.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial says a team is already looking into a PhilHealth case rate package for the drug rehabilitation centers. The PhilHealth Board will meet on Tuesday, August 16, to discuss the matter. "Sa Board en banc na ang decision of what exactly the package will cover and how much will PhilHealth pay," says Ubial.

[Translation: The decision of what exactly the package will cover and how much will PhilHealth pay lies with the Board en banc.]

PhilHealth OIC CEO Ramon Aristoza meanwhile assures members that the program will not drive the national health insurance fund to bankruptcy. "May mga actuarial projection at valuation as to the cost ng medical or psychological procedures na ilalatag namin," he says.

Doctors say drug surrenderees should not lose hope — and Villaroman reminds them, "Recovery should be something that is not painful. It is something to look forward to."