During the first organizational meeting of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography that included a briefing on the country’s health situation and healthcare system, committee chair Senator Bong Go expressed his concern on the various public health issues the country is presently dealing with.
The challenges presented and discussed during the hearing include the national dengue epidemic, immunization, failed distribution of expired and expiring medicines, and fraudulent claims involving the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
Go emphasized in his opening statement at the hearing that healthcare “must be treated as an intrinsic right of our citizens, not a commodity,” referring to the high costs of hospitalization paid by Filipinos once they get admitted to a hospital or have consulted a doctor.
“I have witnessed how the lack of access to affordable and quality healthcare brings a lot of pain and suffering to our countrymen.
Attended by representatives from the Department of Health (DOH) and PhilHealth, the legislator said that for more than two decades as the aide of the former mayor and, now, President Rodrigo Duterte, he has “witnessed how the lack of access to affordable and quality healthcare brings a lot of pain and suffering to our countrymen.”
The lawmaker also emphasized that many Filipinos “have already resigned their fates to their illnesses because going to the hospital or the doctor is expensive and time consuming.”
The senator further stated that ensuring quality and affordable healthcare for every Filipino is also essential in preserving freedom, social justice and a healthy democracy.
“Ensuring quality and affordable healthcare for every Filipino is also essential in preserving freedom, social justice and a healthy democracy.”
This also explains why he had already filed bills that seek to make various government services and programs more affordable, accessible and convenient for the people and in making the government more responsive to their present needs.
Healthcare-related bills filed by Go include the Malasakit Center Act of 2019 (Senate Bill No. 199); increased salary for government workers, including public health professionals (SB No. 200); Advanced Nursing Act of 2019 (SB No. 395); the Barangay Health Workers Act of 2019 (SB No. 392); and the institutionalization of an emergency medical services system nationwide (SB No. 394), among others.
He expressed his determination to address these issues through his proposed legislative measures and by fostering a better and closer working relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government.
In an ambush interview, Go told the members of the press that as the head of the said Senate committee, he is very interested in how the government can maximize its budget to make quality healthcare more affordable and accessible to all Filipinos.
“After our organizational hearing, I’m very much interested sa tamang paggamit ng mga pondo ng gobyerno. Nakatutok ako as chair of the Committee on Health and Demography. Dapat hindi masayang ang pondo na pwede gamitin para sa pagpapagamot ng mga may sakit,” he said.
Go said he is keen on making sure that every peso the government spends is money well spent.
“I am very much interested na walang pisong masasayang sa pondo ng gobyerno,” he said pertaining to the alleged anomalies some government agencies are facing, including the recent issue of PhilHealth’s fraudulent claims.
During the hearing, Go asked DOH to explain the current situation of the dengue epidemic in the country. He also inquired as to what steps the health department has undertaken and its future plans on how to address the issue.h
“Kanina po, tinanong ko sa kanila, ano bang mga ginagawa nilang hakbang sa ngayon at in-explain po ng undersecretary ng DOH (Department of Health) ‘yung mga ginagawa ng DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), DOH at NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) para po sugpuin itong dengue. Ako naman, ang payo ko sa publiko, sundin po natin ang payo ng ating DOH, ‘yung 4S (strategy) sa ngayon. Wala naman tayong mas mabisang gamot sa dengue kung hindi ang sundin ‘yung pagsugpo nito,” he told the press.
Go referred to the DOH’s 4S strategy or “Search and destroy mosquito-breeding sites, Self-protection measures, Seek early consultation and Support fogging or spraying in hotspot areas” to mitigate the dengue epidemic.
Go also added that the public should follow the doctor’s prescription and head straight to the nearest DOH hospital, especially those with Malasakit Centers, to avail of medication and prevent the rise of dengue cases.
Immunization and the spike in cases of diseases, such as measles, which used to have low to zero cases, were also tackled during the hearing. He expressed his willingness to show to the public that vaccination is safe.
“Hinihikayat ko po ang publiko na magpa-bakuna, lalung-lalo na po sa mga bata at wala naman po tayong dapat ikatakot. Mayroon tayong programa ng DOH,” Go said.
Before the 18th Congress opened, he also filed SB No. 398 that seeks to expand the coverage of the existing mandatory basic immunization program of the government under Republic Act No. 10152. If amended, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis, Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV), Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and other types to be determined by the DOH Secretary, upon the recommendation of the Formulary Executive Council and the National Immunization Committee, will be included. Presently, the program only covers tuberculosis; diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; poliomyelitis; measles; mumps, rubella or German measles; hepatitis-B; and H. Influenza type B (HIB).
“Ako willing ako na ipakita sa publiko. Magpapabakuna po ako mismo at even the President before ay willing po magpabakuna para ipakita sa publiko na maayos naman po ‘yung mga vaccine program natin,” Go added.