MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) has started efforts addressing the so-called “maldistribution” of healthcare professionals in tertiary hospitals in urban areas as a way of closing the health gap pertaining to the long problem on unavailability of healthcare workers in isolated communities of the country.
According to DOH Secretary Janette l. Garin, they are enhancing the Doctors to the Barrio (DTTB) program with other innovative solutions that are appropriate to the current situations and at the same time beneficial to those who have been trained to be health professionals but not yet Board examination passers.
The DTTB program was launched in 1993 in response to the shortage of doctors in remote communities in the Philippines. While the program has attracted physicians to work in such areas for the prescribed two-year period, ongoing monitoring shows that very few have chosen to remain there for longer and be absorbed by the Local Government Unit (LGU).
This assessment was carried out to explore the reasons for the low retention rates and to propose possible strategies to reverse the trend.
“A new innovation was started so far by the DOH last year. There are actually two which we have created – one is the Public Health Associates, and the other one is the Universal Health Care (UHC) Implementers,” Secretary Garin said.
She explained that such solutions are something that the DOH intends to enhance as part of preventing healthcare professionals’ concentration in healthcare centers of urban areas.
She said that with the enhanced DTTB program, the problem wherein some patients have not seen health professionals in the remotest and hard-to-reach areas will be provided with continuing solutions.
According to her, Public Health Associates are actually nursing graduates who have not yet taken the Board examination or not lucky to pass it.
She said that the UHC Implementers are also graduates of Doctor of Medicine and their job will be a course “refresher” and at the same time give them the chance to earn while continuing to enhance their experience and exposure.
“We have started with seven UHC Implementers per province. Some of them, well most of them, have not yet passed the Board exam. We are doing this to help them – to help this pool of healthcare professionals because we believe that we have to boost their morale. That is why we encourage them (through the DTTB program) to increase their knowledge with practical things that can complement their teachings in the four corners of their classrooms and that can possibly help them pass the Board exam,” she emphasized.
She further said that on top of that, the very important contribution of the Public Health Associates and the UHC Implementers is the fact that they will remain as pool of people – not all of them but some of them – they will remain as a pool of people where training and knowledge invested by DOH will remain in the institution.
“And as the other healthcare workers embark on new journey – going abroad or seeking greener pastures – health care networks and healthcare facilities, especially those in the needed areas, will not be left without a person with the institutional knowledge and the background of what happened, where we are now, where we intend to go. That will somehow, in one way or another, close the gap of the unavailability of healthcare workers,” she added.
She also said that among factors that discourage healthcare professionals to be deployed in farthest municipalities are unavailability of universities wherein the siblings of the health professional can study as well as problems on peace.
She also said that it is important that economic conditions in the area are well-conducive for the survival of the family of healthcare professionals in order to encourage them to stay there.
“Maski merong mga lugar na nilagyan natin ng hospitals – nilagyan natin ng equipment, ang daming inilagay doon – hindi nagtatagal ang doctor, hindi nagtatagal ang nurse because of the problem in the peace process. So, sabay-sabay ‘yan, dapat infrastructure, katahimikan, peace process – nandoroon din iyung access to many areas. Kasi para mag-survive ang medical healthcare workers natin doon, dapat may local economy na tumatakbo doon, may paaralan ka, meron kang kapamilya, trabaho at pagkakakitaan doon,” she added.
The Health Chief also said that the best structures and equipment will be futile if service delivery network will be incomplete and if there are no competent health professionals that can provide compassionate care to the people.
In line with that, the DOH Chief said that she is hopeful that the next administration will actually enhance further some programs that they have started in order to close the remaining health gaps and truly achieve the dream for universal healthcare for all Filipinos.
“However, a single doctor, midwife or nurse working in an isolated community can make a difference with advancement of information technologies and functional referral network. What is important is that patients are seen by health professionals,” she stressed.