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Slashed budget for DOH saddens Poe

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Senator Grace Poe has lamented the huge budget cuts in the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH) next year, as she warned that this could result in massive job losses of health professionals and could have a huge dent on vital health services.

Poe said the doctors deployed to underserved areas, including thousands of nurses, midwives and dentists, among other health experts, are the “collateral damage” of the P36-billion budget reduction—from P109.8 billion in the current year to only P74.1 billion in 2019.

 “Palitan po natin ang pesos ng pounds, at ihambing natin sa timbang ng tao. Ngayong taon, butot balat na lang na 109 pounds, tapos gagawin pa nating 74 pounds na lang sa susunod na taon. It is as if a fiscal tourniquet was applied on the DOH, constricting the flow of funds, which is the lifeblood of its programs,” manifested Poe after the ratification of the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill 1537 and House Bill 5777 or the First 1,000 Days bill, one of the advocacies of the senator.

During a hearing of the DOH budget on Monday, (Sept. 17) senators were briefed that as much as 15,000 health workers are at risk of being displaced because of the budget cuts.

For one, the DOH’s Health Human Resources Deployment suffered a budget slash of P8.4 billion to P1.2 billion next year, from this year’s P9.6-billion allocation.

“Ito po ang programang nagde-deploy ng mga health professional tulad ng mga doktor, nurse, midwife at dentist, lalo na at salat sa perang pangsuweldo ang mga lokal na pamahalaan. Sila rin ang mga taong mag-aaruga sa bata mula sa sinapupunan ng kanilang nanay, hanggang sa kanilang pagsilang, hanggang umabot sila ng dalawang taong gulang,” said Poe.

The end result? Crippled essential health services for the poor, Poe said.

A closer scrutiny of the proposed 2019 budget of the DOH indicates that key programs also face cuts and “important implementing arms are in danger of being amputated,” Poe said. The First 1,000 Days, with its maiden year of implementation next year, also faced fund reduction, with 2019 proposed allocation pegged at P118 million from P300 million this year.

“Paano natin lalabanan ang infant and mother malnutrition kung ang DOH mismo ay nakakaranas ng fund malnutrition? We need not point out the negative effect of these budget cuts in this bills maiden year of implementation,” Poe added.

Poe urged senators to rally behind important programs such as the First 1,000 Days program, forewarning that without proper support, the program may just be among the unfunded laws.

“We have a library of so-called ‘Mona Lisalaws that just lie there and die there. By our last count, around 137 mandates lack funding, amounting to a deficiency of P125.2 billion,” Poe explained.

But with adequate support, Poe said “we are one step closer to closing a major gap in our social policy—the lack of care for mothers and children in the first 1,000 days of life.”

The legislation provides comprehensive, sustainable and multi sectoral approaches to address health and nutrition problems of children 0-2 years of age, including pregnant and lactating women and adolescent females in order to eradicate hunger, improve nutrition and prevent and manage malnutrition.

Under the measure, the Department of Health, National Nutrition Council, Department of Agriculture, in coordination with other state agencies and local government units, are mandated to develop a comprehensive strategy for the first 1,000 days of life.

“This brief period of time can determine the fate of Filipino children, and thus, the future of our country,” said Poe.

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