Newly appointed Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said he would make it his priority to address the brain drain in the medical profession by making sure health care workers get the benefits due them.
“It’s time to honor them because they are leaving,” Herbosa said in a mix of English and Filipino. “They’re getting jobs in other countries that [are] paying them higher. We need to solve this; this is my priority.”
He committed to making sure that the Department of Budget and Management and DOH will be able to issue the benefits due to health workers.
“I’ll look into that, make sure that all those who worked and gave their services will be given their benefits,” he said.
He said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was “very clear” about the need to address the increasing cases of TB (tuberculosis), teenage pregnancy, and HIV among the youth.
He also said the President wanted to push specialty hospitals.
Before the Congress adjourned sine die last week, the Senate passed on third and final reading a bill to create specialty hospitals in every region of the country.
Herbosa also said the DOH would not bring back the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine, despite the statement last year by officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire that they were open to studying the evidence on the shots.
From Jan. 1 uo to May 13, the DOH logged 48,109 dengue cases in the country, 38 percent higher than the 34,963 cases during the same period in 2022.
There were also 176 dengue-related deaths in the same period, representing a 0.4 percent case fatality rate.
The Dengvaxia controversy arose in November 2017 when its manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur announced that the vaccine may lead to severe symptoms if one has never been infected by dengue prior to vaccination.
Due to this, the Philippine Food and Drug Administration suspended the sale, distribution, and marketing of Dengvaxia vaccine and ordered its withdrawal from the market. But by then, the government was already conducting a widespread dengue vaccination program under then Health secretary Janette Garin.
Herbosa said he would focus on the government’s priority projects, including the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law.
He also denied allegations that he pushed to privatize government hospitals, saying that the Aquino administration had merely sent him to study public-private partnerships in health care.
The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) accused Herbosa, who was Health undersecretary under the Aquino administration, of being the promoter and cluster head of NCR and Southern Luzon Public-Private Partnership Projects, which included the sale of Philippine Orthopedic Center and the abolition of Fabella Hospital.
The alliance also tagged him as being behind the privatization to some extent the operations of government hospitals during his term.
“Privatization of public hospitals and other public health services will result in higher income generation by collecting higher fees from the patients while health workers will be subjected to more inhumane working conditions,” the AHW said.