COVID-19 an ‘eye-opener’ on the urgency to raise health infra budget

Senator Pia S. Cayetano stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need to address the gaps in the country’s healthcare system, as she pushed for measures seeking to ramp up health infrastructure for the safety and protection of Filipinos.

“COVID-19 opens our eyes and gives us that window of opportunity to provide the necessary funding, attention, and effort that our healthcare deserves,” the senator said during the Senate Committee on Health and Demography’s hearing on Tuesday (May 26).

“This pandemic has revealed many of the gaps in our system, gaps that have been created because of decades of lack of funding for healthcare,” added Cayetano, who formerly chaired the health panel in 2004.

The senator expressed hope that the health crisis today would bring forth reforms in the future and push the government to invest more in our healthcare system, particularly to build more adequate health infrastructure.

“Knowing how open-minded people are now and how much people see the importance of healthcare, there would be a much stronger support for whatever budget we would be proposing,” she stressed.

Last year, Cayetano filed Senate Bill No. 63, or the ‘Build, Build, Build for Health Infrastructure’ Bill, which mandates the Department of Health (DOH) to identify priority needs for health infrastructure, and establish a long-term plan to provide for health facilities in priority areas.

Under the measure, a proposed amount of P10 billion shall automatically be included in DOH’s annual appropriation for the next five years for the implementation of the infrastructure plan.

“My intention [in filing the bill was] very simple, that health infrastructure be included in the flagship projects of this administration in the remaining years that it has, and that this continues throughout the years,” Cayetano said during the hearing.

She stressed that ensuring adequate funds for health infrastructure is consistent with the newly enacted Universal Health Care (UHC) Law, Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of which the country is a signatory, as well as the government’s own Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.

Meanwhile, the senator pushed anew for the passage of another bill she filed, Senate Bill No. 1442, which seeks to provide for the establishment and operation of additional quarantine stations, grounds, and anchorages in all strategic areas in the country.

“This is a [Covid-response] measure that also will ensure that we are prepared for future health crises,” stressed Cayetano who now chairs the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.

She also expressed support for a proposal to authorize the DOH to set bed capacities in various public hospitals. Current regulations only allow the agency to increase bed capacity and improve service capability of hospitals through legislation.

“I am a big supporter of this, because what I have seen in all the years that I chaired the [Senate] Committee [on Health] was, nauuna po ang mga ospital na may masigasig na congressman o senador na tumutulong. Kawawa naman po ang mga tao o lugar na walang nagla-lobby para sa kanila,” Cayetano cited.

“Their need for healthcare is in no way diminished by the lack of a piece of paper filed in the House or in the Senate. That’s why I have always believed that DOH should be given full authority,” she further noted.#

Cayetano’s ‘Build, Build, Build for Health’ bill proposes P10 billion for DOH’s health infrastructure budget over the next five years.

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