Following his reappointment as Secretary of Health, Dr Francisco Duque III vowed to revive his old, but improved flagship reform programme - FOURmula One - while continuing the implementation of other programme's previously initiated by his predecessor.

Duque, who also served as Health chief from 2005 to 2010 under the administration of Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo, formally took over the Department of Health's leadership vice erstwhile Dr Paulyn Ubial, whose appointment was thumbed down by the Congressional Commission on Appointments.

During his first press conference after taking the agency's helm, he told newsmen he was going to pursue programmes and plans started during his previous term, but which were not given enough attention by those who succeeded him.

"We affirm continuing health programmes begun by previous Secretaries of Health under the Philippine Health Agenda," he remarked, adding certain elements will be merged with a strategic approach through the revitalization of his flagship programme, the FOURmula One (F1).

FOURmula One Plus

The newly revived F1 will carry the new tagline: Boosting Universal Health Care via FOURmula One Plus, or F1 Plus.

The F1 is a strategy for implementing health reforms for agencies, bureaus and programmes attached to the department since 2005.

In a 2009 DOH report, the department - under F1 - saw increases in its budget, a strengthening of its regulatory and oversight function through the passage of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA Act of 2009, the establishment of Botika ng Barangay (BnBs), government hospital upgrades, and greater focus on Millennium Development Goals number 4 and 5 or the child and maternal health, among others.

In a statement, the DOH said " Health Secretary Duque will make the health reform agenda much more transparent, inclusive, coordinative, and synergistic with the efforts of both public and private sector partners, especially the local government, thereby enabling the DOH to hit the ground running by 2018.

From 10 billion to 165 billion

The Heath chief conceded that with a bigger budget of PhP 165 billion (compared to only 10 billion in 2005), the agency has "a huge responsibility and accountability to the Filipino people."

Among the health challenges that he will have to deal with are high maternal and neonatal mortality rates, increasing burden of tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and emerging non-communicable diseases that include mental disorders, and drug resistance.

"We have to be very careful in the way we spend our budget and ensuring that the programmes we wish to implement create the desired health outcomes," he told the media.

Perfomance Governance System

Under his leadership, Secretary Duque said the agency will need to adopt a culture of evidence-based metrics that will enable the DOH, and the public, to monitor how the health sector is working to achieve better timelines, responsiveness, quality and outcomes for patients.

The former Civil Service Commission chairman renewed his commitment to pursue a performance governance system (PGS), begun in 2009.

PGS was made possible through a partnership among the DOH, the Institute of Solidarity in Asia, and the Development Academy of the Philippines.

The ISA defined PGS as a 'holistic and collaborative framework for designing and executive road maps to a long-term reform with a four-stage pathway. The system is used in 50 national government agencies and local government units in the country. 

He said the department managed to achieve the first two stages of transformational governance - Initiation in 2009 and Compliance in 2010 - but that the DOH had stopped following the programme before reaching the Proficiency and Institutionalization phases that resulted in a gap.

The new FOURmula One Plus will complement the PGS.

Secretary Duque assured that health reforms during his term will be more transparent, inclusive, coordinative, and synergistic with efforts from public and private sector partners and local government units.

Universal Health Care Bill, health professionals, Anti-Red Tape Act

On the issue of the Universal Health Care Bill, which is pending in Congress, the Secretary said provisions under the proposed law must be grounded on the reality of finite resources and funds.  

As for the improvement of health professionals’ state in the country, Secretary Duque said that improving their welfare is one of his administration’s deliverables in alignment with the F1 Plus , as well as upgrades and modernization of hospitals.

Among the priority programmes, the new Health Secretary will strengthen the enforcement of the Anti-Red Tape Act, which aims to improve public service delivery in the country and reduce the bureaucratic red tape, especially in public hospitals.

Secretary Duque will work with the Civil Service Commission, through the Contact Center ng Bayan (8888 hotline) in which the public can call to pass on their complaints and commendations with regard to health matters. MIMS