LAWMAKERS have expressed concern over the cuts in the budget of the Department of Health (DOH) affecting some of its programs and services.
Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin lamented the almost P4.2 billion cut in the department’s disease prevention saying it is a wrong priority to transfer it to a health promotion program.
“We are in dire need of funds and these funds were transferred to the health promotion office and to the blood center and other voluntary blood services. Laudable naman po ang programa pero mahirap po kasi iexplain sa taumbayan na ang tinapyas ng DOH ay para sana sa program ng communicable diseases, marami pa tayong challenges, ang pondo na ito ay pwede na ibili ng dagdag na gamot kontra COVID, pwede ibili para sa monkeypox and gamitin sa ibang pangangailangan, my point is the pandemic is not yet over bakit natin tatapyasan ang control and prevention disease,” Garin explained.
Some communicable diseases includes the COVID, tuberculosis, monkeypox, leptospirosis, encephalitis and the HIV/AIDS that has already see a fresh surge due to disruptions in health services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s cumulative confirmed HIV caseload have breach the 100,000-mark within the first half of this year based on the National HIV/AIDS Registry.
Health Officer-in-Charge Rosario Vergerie earlier defended the slashed budget for communicable diseases explaining that the DOH are not going to procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and GeneExpert Cartridges used to test tuberculosis, COVID, hepatitis and HIV but Garin pointed out that prevention and control of communicable diseases does not only mean purchasing PPE and test cartridges.
The DOH proposed a P95 billion COVID response budget for 2023 but only P24.98 billion was approved by the Department of Budget and Management(DBM).
Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Ray Florence Reyes also expressed disappointment in slashing the DOH’s budget for backwages of health workers.
“It is disappointing that DBM cut the health agency’s budget for arrears payment. Next year should have been an opportune time to pay back our health workers who continue to offer themselves before the altar of public health and public service,” Rep. Reyes said.
Vergeire said the agency proposed 76 billion for payments to healthcare workers who served during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic between 2021 and 2022, but only P19 billion was granted by the DBM which they project will only be enough for three months of backwages.
On the other hand, the P500 million cut in funds for cancer patients is very disappointing, according to Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera.
“This financial assistance from the government will help defray treatment-related expenses for cancer patients who are facing financial challenges, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic that really brought them to their knees,” Herrera said.
Vergeire said the cancer assistance fund was not included in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by the DBM to Congress.
The assistance fund is a major component of Republic Act 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control (NICC) Act of 2019, which aims to provide cancer patients better access to affordable health care services.