IN 2017 AND 2018, the South Cotabato provincial government funded the construction of seven halfway houses. Called Bahay ni Nanay, these dwellings were built to take care of full-term pregnant tribal women waiting their turn to deliver in government birthing facilities that are often filled to capacity. “Around 30% of my constituents are indigenous peoples [IPs] who live in remote upland villages. Tribal women whose pregnancies have reached term and their companions can stay in Bahay ni Nanay until they are about to give birth,” said South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance Fuentes, during the 2018 Health for Juan and Juana Forum: Moving Forward with the Philippine Health Agenda.
Making health services accessible to all, particularly the poor, is a top priority of the South Cotabato provincial government. In 2017, its three provincial hospitals enrolled 4,332 indigent patients in PhilHealth through the Point-of-Care Enrolment Program. South Cotabato Provincial Hospital (SCPH), Norala District Hospital (NDH), and Polomolok Municipal Hospital (PMH) shouldered the annual premium contribution of the beneficiaries amounting to almost P10.4 million. To accommodate the increasing number of patients, the provincial government secured P117.5 million from the Health Facilities Enhancement Program of the Department of Health (DoH) to fund the construction of additional buildings in SCPH, NDH, and Upper Valley Community Hospital.
Recognizing that an information system that functions well is one of the building blocks of the health system, Ms. Fuentes has taken concrete steps to strengthen South Cotabato’s health information system. The provincial government is working with the Local Civil Registrar in providing Birth and Marriage Certificates to IPs. It is also hiring personnel for the Philippine Integrated Disease Surveillance System and Response, as well as Information Technology personnel to monitor the implementation of the Clinic Information System (ClinicSys) in regional health units. The provincial government is also working to make South Cotabato part of other national health surveillance systems, such as the Hospital Operations and Management Information System (HOMIS), Online National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (ONEISS), and Philippine Malaria Information System (PhilMIS).
The provincial government is also developing South Cotabato’s human resources for health. The Family and Community Medicine Residency Training Program of SCPH, which is accredited by the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians, trains physicians employed in SCPH and physicians working in regional health units and government hospitals, as well as those in private health facilities. “In partnership with the DoH, we also enroll the staff of provincial hospitals and other public health facilities in the province in postgraduate degrees to improve our health service delivery,” Ms. Fuentes said.
Meanwhile, the Kabugwason-Paglaum Scholarship Program is the South Cotabato provincial government’s educational flagship program that benefits poor but academically deserving students who want to take up medicine. “It is a unique scholarship program that aims to produce competent physicians who will expand health care delivery in our province, as its beneficiaries have a Return of Service Obligation to the endorsing LGU,” explained Ms. Fuentes.
In his remarks during the 2017 Health for Juan and Juana forum with theme “Bringing Health to Juan and Juana: Universal Healthcare in the Communities,” Senator Ralph Recto spoke about his proposal for a “One Town, One Doctor” measure to help ensure that health care will be readily accessible and available at the place and time of need.
The bill proposes a medical scholarship program for students coming from rural towns. When these students become licensed doctors, they will then be required to return and serve in the specific towns where they come from. This way, the scholars-turned-doctors will be serving the people and specific communities they know well to begin with. The full study funding will cover tuition, travel expenses and living allowances. The projected cost per scholar is P600,000 or P900 million for 1,500 students in a year.
Upon getting the degree, the student will be asked to serve for four years in the town that provided the slot.
Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). Medicine Cabinet is a weekly PHAP column that aims to promote awareness on public health and health care-related issues. PHAP and its member companies represent the research-based pharmaceutical and health care industry.