LAWMAKERS ON Thursday assured that they will find adequate funding for health workers as the government prepares to roll out the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act and despite cuts in the Department of Health’s (DoH) proposed 2020 budget.

Quezon 1st District Rep. Angelina D.L. Tan said they are working on reinstating the needed fund for the UHC program, particularly the salary for human resources.

Under the 2020 national expenditure program, currently pending before Congress, the DoH’s proposed budget has been trimmed, which could result to retrenchments among its 26,000 health workers next year.

“We asked the DBM how we can manage the expectation of people if they will decrease the employees. With 26,000, it’s actually not enough. We want them to maintain that and increase that ratio of population to health workers but we are behind that,” Ms. Tan said during a briefing following the signing of the UHC’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

“I’m helping the DoH so we can restore the cuts in the budget,” she added, noting that they are also studying what item in the proposed DoH budget could be realigned for human resources.

Ms. Tan, author of the UHC, also said, “It’s not just human resources but also health facilities is important in implementing primary care. We are appealing to the DBM to study this well.”

The proposed 2020 budget of the DoH is P160.1 billion, over P9 billion lower than its 2019 allocation. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said this could force a mass retrenchment of over 7,000 workers in 2020.

Senator Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, co-author and co-sponsor of the UHC’s Senate version, said this was not the first time that lawmakers have appealed to reinstate the budgetary needs of DoH.

“Like the House, we are fighting in the Senate to reinstate the cuts for the DoH, especially with this timing when we’re going to implement the Universal Health Care,” Ms. Hontiveros said in the same briefing.

Meanwhile, DoH Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said completing the UHC’s IRR “is indeed a cause for celebration, but the IRR is the first step in the long and tedious journey in creating a health system that truly works for every Juan and Juana.”

The UHC Law provides that all Filipinos are automatically registered under the PhilHealth Insurance Corp. and are eligible to the “No Balance Billing” when availing basic or ward accommodation in hospitals.

The IRR also provides that all health facilities will have the following prescribed ratio of basic and private beds: 90:10 for public health facilities, 70:30 for public specialty health facilities, and a minimum of 10:90 for private health facilities.

DoH Undersecretary Mario C. Villaverde said, “There are so many policy guidelines that is needed to implement some provisions in the law and in the IRR. That is the next phase that we will do here. We need to operationalize what is written in the Act and what is written in the rules and regulations… We are already mapping out the specific operational guidelines.” — Gillian M. Cortez