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PHL needs P57B and 35,000 doctors to copy Cuba's healthcare system, DOH chief says

The Philippines needs at least P57 billion and 35,000 more doctors to emulate the healthcare system of Cuba, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial, a recent Cuba visitor, said Monday.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, Ubial said the central point of Cuba's efficient and effective healthcare system is actually the human resource complement.

She said Cuba has a system that produces adequate number of health professionals, particularly doctors, making its human resource to population ratio better than the ratio the World Health Organization (WHO) is actually promoting.

Ubial said in Cuba, there is one doctor for every 1,075 persons, while in the Philippines there is one doctor for every 33,000 Filipinos. The WHO standard is one doctor is to 20,000 persons.

“And if it’s a doctor at the frontline, or one doctor for every barangay, so that’s 2,000 to 5,000 population, that would cost us around P57 billion additional. But that’s only for the salary of the health worker. Now if it’s a midwife or a nurse that will be in the frontline per barangay that would be around 25 billion pesos,” the Health secretary said.

The additional amount is just for the salary of the health practitioners, she added.

Ubial also pointed out that the Cuban government prioritizes healthcare.

“It was given about 28 percent of the national budget to the health sector. And their, shall we, say per capita expenditure on health is 460 dollars. The Philippine per capita expenditure on health based on the 2015 budget is 76 dollars,” she noted.

In the proposed 2017 national budget, the government earmarked P151.1 billion for the health sector or 4.6 percent of the total P3.3 trillion budget proposal

Ubial was in Cuba last August 23 to 26 with 10 other officials from the Department of Health (DOH), World Health Organization (WHO), and local government units.

35,000 doctors

Copying Cuba’s model would also mean that the government needs an additional 35,000 doctors. For now, the DOH's interim goal is to have one midwife or nurse per barangay.

One of the reasons why the Philippines does not have 35,000 doctors is because the board exam passing rate is just 30 to 40 percent, while Cuba has a 98 percent passing rate. But Ubial said the DOH is looking into pairing up with universities to offer scholarships and private sector physicians to service rural areas.

“We’re trying to look at the universities, ano, of where we are and then, we’re offering scholarships. For example, for geographically isolated disadvantage areas and indigenous peoples for them to take up midwifery, nursing or medicine... And then we are also looking at the state universities and colleges to actually have some sort of arrangement of mandatory deployment before they can go to other specializations or other fields of practice,” she said.

“There’s been a lot of collaboration and negotiations with the private sector physicians to actually service the rural areas. So, the idea is for them to adopt a hospital or a health facility… Hindi iyong parang lilipat sila from private to government, but to actually support the government health facilities,” Ubial added. —KBK, GMA News