Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Philippines
During the 35th foundation day of the Philippine College of Hospital Administrators (PCHA)
[Delivered at the Bayanihan Center, United Laboratories (UNILAB), April 27, 2010]
Thank you Secretary Cabral for your very kind introduction.
Thank you Mr. Lirio, president of the College; Dr. Morales; Dr. Hernandez; the officers and members of this very important College of Hospital Administrators, Happy 30th Foundation Day to all of you!
You know, I was telling Dr. Morales that when my… you know, presidents receive many invitations, and so we have a committee that takes care of it. Well, we got your invitation less than a month ago, so it was a little late and I had lots of previous engagement on this day. So the committee that handles my appointments turned it down but when I saw the list, I overruled them; I transferred one of my appointments to another day so that I could make it with you today.
And I guess one of the reasons is that: in our administration we put a lot of emphasis on health and so I wanted to be able to be with you so that we can work together or speak together or think together on how to promote health. And I’m very glad that our former Secretary of Social Welfare and Development, who used to be administrator of the Heart Center of the Philippines, is now our Secretary of Health, Secretary Espie Cabral.
The medical profession and the allied professions, including hospital administration, have been an effective partner of our administration. And I know how important it is to have a good hospital administration because my husband is in and out of the hospital. So, I thank you sincerely for your hard work in having good hospital services for our people.
I have been familiar with the concerns of the health services since I was young. We literally had a doctor in our house, my mother, the tukaya of Dr. Morales, Dr. Evangelina Macaraeg Macapagal. And she became a doctor because her mother had been very sickly. My grandfather’s work as engineer during the American period both in the private sector and in the public sector necessitate that he would be assigned to different places in the country. He was assigned first to the Department of Public Works in Tayabas and then he joined the private sector. He went to Zamboanga where he founded a branch in Gingoog then he went back to the public sector and he went to Cebu. And everytime my father was assigned to a new place, the first thing they would do because my grandmother was so sickly, was to look for a good hospital. That’s how important hospitals are in the lives of people especially the many people who are sickly. And I am sure your hospitals have also played an important role in the lives of people the way it played an important role in the life of my own grandmother.
And my mother would always say, and you know this for a fact and you tell everybody this I’m sure, that the people’s health means wealth for a nation aspiring to be economically strong. Every effort that they expend to promote our people’s health contributes to our advancement as a nation and conversely, we are faced by the reality that only a strong economy can best improve the plight of the poor and provide for their needs, including health care.
Sabi ni Dr. Morales parang nag-i-identify ito sa akin because the job of a president is about as hard as the job of a hospital administrator. It’s very difficult, in other words, a very difficult job. And in a sense, I was also in the hospital business in the early years of my presidency tending however to one really sick patient — our economy.
And as you have gone a long way over the last 35 years, I think we can also say that the Philippines have come a long way since January of 2001. Time has gratefully erased many memories of that tumultuous time less than ten years ago, when the nation teetered on political chaos and financial bankruptcy.
It was a time of few jobs, lower salaries, high inflation. Due to insufficient revenues, investments had… insufficient investments had been made to expand healthcare or provide clean water which is needed for good health for our people.
Into this dismal picture we stepped. I did not seek the Office of the President in 2001; it was thrust upon me. But rather than shirk from this onerous task, I rolled up my sleeves, determined to turn the Philippines around.
We were focused like a laser beam on delivering real results to better the lives of ordinary Filipinos. As an economist, I knew that to reverse economic decline we had to instill fiscal discipline, grow the economy, and invest in human and physical infrastructure.
From day one, these actions would form the building blocks of a turnaround that would deliver 37 consecutive quarters of growth, the creation of nine million new jobs, and I guess important for you, the addition of 50 million members to healthcare, so that they can help… the government can help pay for the bills of these people even in private hospitals such as yours. And we were able to do that and still have a stable fiscal situation.
Because I have never shied away from taking on tough issues. Most notably, my popularity dipped when I went against the grain and championed the passing of the EVAT which is what funds our Philhealth. I knew it would be unpopular, but someone had to get the nation’s fiscal house in order and bring in revenues to invest in the people. It was the right thing to do. It has served the people well.
So we are constantly gratified by the unprecedented numbers that really matter for the welfare and future of our people: Nine and a half years of continuous economic growth, despite the fact that over these nine years, we’ve had global oil shocks, wars in the Middle East, world financial crisis, and now millions of ordinary Filipinos also travel the RORO Nautical Highways.
And tonight, if you’re going to watch the ANC Forum on the Economy, you will see ADB testifying there that poverty incidence in our country decreased from 33% in 2001 to 28% today, despite the increase in the population and the global crisis.
In the health sector, where did we spend our EVAT money? Our stable government coffers resulted in the biggest investments in the country’s history. The Department of Health budget rose from P10 billion before my administration to P29 billion this year. And that doesn’t include the billions we have put in for water which we have put under the Oversight of the Department of Health because there’s a very close relationship between clean water and the health of the people.
Now, talking about Philhealth which I think is our biggest connection to you — the private hospitals. When this administration started in 2001, there were less than 8 million people enrolled in Philhealth. And that’s because they were salaried employees, so it’s part of their medicare. Barely 400,000 were indigents where their premium was paid for by the government in accordance with the Philhealth law.
So when I became President, we set ourselves a target to cover 500,000 new beneficiaries every year, where we have achieved not 500,000 new beneficiaries every year, which should have been five million for the past ten years, but 50 million new beneficiaries instead. And from 400,000 indigent families, five million families or 25 million individuals are now members of Philhealth, because our Philhealth membership coverage has been expanded to include retirees, non-pensioners, overseas workers and also the indigents that the government must pay for.
We have also improved some 70 government hospital facilities. But I always tell our DOH, we don’t want to put the money for improvement of facilities in big hospitals where there are already private hospitals because Philhealth should cover that. We should put our upgrading money there in the far-flung barangays for rural health units to become clinics, for clinics to become primary hospitals, for primary care hospitals to become secondary. That’s where we should put the money so that we can have a good symbiotic and mutually reinforcing relationship with each other.
For example, I don’t think that you would be interested in putting up a hospital in some remote town like Lope de Vega of Norther Samar — that’s where we should improve on the facilities there. Now, I suppose private sector would be interested in developing hospitals in Catarman where there is a big town. Then that’s not where we should put up our facilities there. In other words, we want the private hospitals to thrive because that’s part of a good economy and we want to help you through our Philhealth.
We also want to help you make the medicines affordable to your clients, your patients. When they are confined, I think medicines are included in the coverage of Philhealth. But when they’re outpatients they’re not covered. So, therefore you should have, you should be able to give them prescriptions for medicines they can afford.
And even before the passage of the Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008, we already established the Botika ng Barangay and Botika ng Bayan system in order to offer our countrymen and women medicines commonly used by the poor at prices half of what they were in 2001.
And I am glad that we are here in a UNILAB facility because I want to acknowledge UNILAB, because when we had our program that we announced way back in 2001 of bringing down medicines commonly used by the poor to one-half of what they used to be, UNILAB was one of the first to respond and they put up the Ritemed medicine (applause) which is in fact one-half or even less the price of what the medicines where in 2001.
Part of our public health expenditure also has been to deploy more than 200 physicians to doctorless municipalities, also nurses more than 10,000 have been mobilized in 1,200 poor cities and municipalities. This is our NARS (Nurses Assigned in Rural Service). In that way, we not only improve health services of a particular poor municipality, we also create new jobs, and most of these nurses we send there are those that are recent graduates or they just got their license and you’re not ready to hire them yet because they don’t have experience yet. So they get an experience in the province so that after they finish their six months — Espie, ‘no? — then hopefully, they will be able to have a better chance of landing a job in your hospitals.
Because of all of these things that we have done, where almost half of the world’s economies, even strong nations were in the sick bay, we were able to make progress.
Yes, we have made progress, but more needs to be done.
And while I am proud of what our government has achieved, past achievement is only as good as the ability of the nation to continue to grow and prosper. That’s why I congratulate you on your theme: “Looking Forward to a Healthier Tomorrow.”
I fervently desire that the progress we have made will not stop. Because as a nation, and you as a profession, we must keep our sights firmly set on the future, to build on what is good and work even harder to meet the challenges of what remains to be done.
So, it is really fitting that the Hospital Administrator should look forward to a healthier tomorrow. And may this Congress help you move forward to that healthier tomorrow.
Mabuhay kayo! at maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.
Macapagal-Arroyo, G. (2010). President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s speech during the 35th foundation day of the Philippine College of Hospital Administrators (PCHA). Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20100609080051/http://www.op.gov.ph/index.php option=com_content&task=view&id=27885&Itemid=38