DOH chief: Gov't targeting one health worker per barangay by 2022

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 30) — Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Paulyn Ubial says the agency is targeting to put one health worker in every barangay nationwide by the time the Duterte administration wraps up.

Ubial told CNN Philippines' The Source on Friday that the DOH was fulfilling a campaign promise by President Rodrigo Duterte.

"We have deployed around 24,000 health workers, in addition to what the LGUs are providing," she said. "But I think we need another 25,000. So it's about P7 billion additional budget to deploy enough health workers."

She also said the government needed to put up around 21,000 barangay health stations to serve patients better.

In the meantime, Ubial said the DOH was able to examine 20 million of the poorest Filipinos.

"That's the most tangible intervention in this administration," she said. "And out of that, we've discovered 15,200 operable cases. So last June 21, we launched the surgical caravan where we hope to provide surgical services free."

Lack of doctors

In an October 2016 The Source interview, Ubial said the Philippines needed 15,000 more doctors to meet Filipinos' health needs every year, with only one doctor for every 33,000 persons in the country.

She said in Cuba — which she and other health officials visited in August 2016 to know more about its excellent medical system — there was one doctor for every 1,075 persons.

Ubial added that there were not enough volunteers willing to go to rural areas.

Free tuition, with conditions

One of the ways the government is addressing the shortage of doctors is offering free tuition for students in state medical schools starting academic year 2017-2018.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said in a June 16 statement that incoming and currently enrolled students in eight public medical schools could study for free through the ?317.1-million Cash Grants to Medical Students Enrolled in State Universities and Colleges (CGMS-SUCs).

"The initiative is a response to the continuing lack of doctors in the country caused by the high cost of medical education, overseas migration and brain drain," CHED Commissioner Prospero De Vera said.

"The Duterte administration wants to solve this problem by subsidizing the tuition of medical students and facilitating their residency and practice in the different parts of the country," he added.

One of the conditions of the CGMS-SUCs is that students must practice in the country for one year for every year they avail the grant.

100 percent PhilHealth coverage

Meanwhile, Ubial said the government was setting aside P3 billion to give all Filipinos coverage under the country's national health insurance program PhilHealth.

"As of 2016, 91 percent of Filipinos are covered with PhilHeath, so we're looking at the remaining 9 percent of the population not yet covered," she said.

"So we're actually coming out with the guidelines for that and is point-of-service utilization, meaning that if anyone comes to a health facility doesn't have PhilHealth coverage, they're automatically covered," she added. "And the government will pay for whatever expenses they will incur in their hospitalization."

Ubial added that the coverage would not include out-patient services.