This letter was written in the aftermath of a Senate Resolution seeking the resignation of DOH Sec. Francisco Duque and President Duterte’s subsequent expression that the secretary will be retained. We believe it is time to put these events behind us, join hands and fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DOH has tried its best to curb this pandemic but their response to the pandemic is constrained by decades-long problems in the healthcare system, including problems in maldistribution of health human resources, institutional capacity, bureaucratic processes, facility preparedness and funding.

We, therefore, commend the DOH staff who have worked tirelessly despite the constraints. Many have fallen ill from the very disease they have been trying to protect the public from.

Nevertheless, the recent Senate resolution should compel DOH leadership and all attached agencies and Bureaus to fast-track implementation of long-overdue internal reforms needed to reenergize the institution into a unified, solid and effective fighting force against COVID-19, while ensuring delivery of essential non-COVID health services. Integrated programs at the primary care level are necessary for the delivery of essential services. Further, to promote transparency, the DOH should give premium to an effective communication strategy and the provision of real-time information. Some of these necessary changes can be very well supported by enabling legislation and budgetary allocation.

Moreover, the extreme challenges posed by this unprecedented pandemic require a comprehensive response that is not only confined to the DOH. It involves all of society, and with it, all branches of government, including the legislative branch.

We all need to step up.

We from the private sector and civil society will remain vigilant and advocate the reforms that will institutionally strengthen the DOH and its service delivery.

Disagreements about science and policy will be inevitable, but then we must scrutinize the available evidence, arrive at consensus and quickly rally on our agreements, to continue the battle against the real enemy, COVID-19. The situation calls for solidarity, even as we remain vigilant in holding our leaders accountable – without necessarily casting blame, otherwise our bureaucracy will crumble under the weight of the pandemic.

We therefore ask our leaders to now lay their differences aside and forge ahead with us – public and private healthcare workers, and health advocates – to fight this war together, separated by space, but united in spirit to protect our beloved nation.

 

Signed,

Philippine Medical Association
2030 Youth Force in the Philippines, Inc.
Action for Economic Reforms
Action on Smoking & Health Philippines Inc. (ASH)
Alaga Health
ANG NARS
Asia Pacific Center for Evidence Based Health Care (APCEBH)
Consolidated Council of Health and Allied Profession (CCHAP-PSLINK)
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines (FCAP)
Galing Pook
Happy Hour Philippines
Health Justice Philippines
JCI-Lakambini Davao
National Public Workers Congress (PUBLIK)
New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP)
One for Nursing Empowerment Philippines
Philippine Society of Private Midwife Clinic Owners Inc-Davao
Project Duyan for Sustainable Geriatric Health
Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)
Rights, Inc.
The Mayari Movement
United Healthcare Org of the Philippines (UHOP)
Women Action Network in Development (WAND)

Individuals:
Mr. Alex Padilla
Rogelio V Dazo Jr, MD
Maricar Limpin, MD
Mr. Dexter Galban