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.

Pia renews call for Build, Build, Build for Health to equip PH for new normal

As the world faces a health crisis, Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing anew for the passage of a proposed measure that seeks to fast track the government’s health infrastructure initiatives.

The senator filed last year the Priority Health Infrastructure Bill (Senate Bill No. 63), known also as the ‘Build, Build, Build for Health’ Bill, which aims to create a comprehensive and sustainable approach to health infrastructure over the next five years.

“I filed this in the Senate last year, and the timing for its discussion is perfect now. As we begin a new normal due to the COVID-19 threat, we need to be forward thinking and put health care infrastructure on top of our priorities,” Cayetano stressed.

Citing the two recent online forums she attended last Thursday (April 23) – the  Asia-Pacific Parliamentarian Forum on Global Health and the World Bank Group’s Virtual Parliamentary Meeting on Pandemics and COVID-19 – Cayetano said “what was emphasized time and again” was the need for countries with less than adequate health care systems to focus on improving the delivery of their basic health care, particularly by addressing the health care needs of infants, mothers, the elderly, and the infirm or sickly.

“If communities are self-sufficient and can take care of the basic health care needs of their residents, that is already a huge step forward. Then, the next step would be the establishment of specialty medical centers for patients who need to be referred to these specialists,” Cayetano explained.

“Likewise, it is a good time to redesign our country’s health care facilities, to keep our health workers safe and to address the fear and the reality that these very facilities that are there to provide health remedies are also hot spots for the spread of viruses and germs,” she further noted.

SBN 63 takes off from the Duterte administration’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ Program for public works and is anchored on the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 to accelerate human capital development through quality health care services.

The measure is also expected to put the Philippines on track in attaining its target to provide essential health care for all by 2030 under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Under the bill, the Department of Health (DOH) shall be assigned to determine priority health infrastructure needs of government hospitals to be integrated in a five-year plan. An annual P10-billion budget shall be allocated for the improvement of health facilities in priority areas.

“On the other hand, given what we are currently experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am hopeful that this amount would be increased tenfold in the succeeding years,” said Cayetano, principal author and sponsor of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (RA 11469).

“Let’s learn from our experiences during this global health crisis. To most effectively protect and promote the health of our people against future crises, we need to revitalize and strengthen our public health infrastructure. This will require political and financial support over time,” she added.

As former chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, Cayetano led the passage of several landmark laws to enhance public health services. Among these are the Mental Health Act (RA 11036), the National Health Insurance Act (RA 10606), the Philippine National Health Research System Act (RA 10532), the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act (RA 10512), and the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RA 10354).#

Senator Pia joins the opening of the Human Milk Bank facility of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City.