House panel quizzes DOH on drug rehab, animal bite programs

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on health recently put the Department of Health (DOH) on the hot seat, focusing on some of its programs, including drug rehabilitation, animal bite, and oral health.

A November 8 press release from the House of Representatives showed lawmakers asking Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial about her department's capability to implement certain programs. 

Batangas 5th District Representative Mario Vittorio Mariño, vice chair of the committee, revealed the local government of Batangas intends to build a rehabilitation center but that they "do not have the expertise to manage one."

He asked the department if it has a model for the management of treatment and rehabilitation centers (TRCs) in the country. Ubial said a standard operating manual for drug rehabilitation is available in every DOH regional office.

Mariño then asked whether there are funds the local government can access to run the rehabilitation center.

What's available, according to the health secretary, are funds for the training and capacity-building of local government health workers and personnel who will manage and operate the TRCs.

"However, we don't have the maintenance and other operating expenses and capital outlay. We've asked the local governments to submit their proposals, as we are requesting that these proposals be funded through the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation funds," Ubial said.

Under the DOH's proposed 2017 budget, there is a P3-billion allocation for the operation of government-run TRCs. (READ: Duterte's 100 days with key sectors: What has happened so far)

Still, Ubial urged local government units to provide their own funds for the operation of these centers as "counterpart funding." The capacity to pay of drug surrenderers who will be admitted to these centers will have to be assessed.

The Duterte administration's intensified war on drugs has, so far, seen over 4,800 personalities killed both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings.

Over 760,000 drug pushers and users have also surrendered to authorities.

Animal bite, oral health

Asked by Bagong Henerasyon Representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy about animal bite centers in the country, Ubial said there are 600 existing centers in the country, with most of them located in urban centers and capital towns of provinces.

Ubial also revealed that while animal bite incidents are rare, the department already has an allocation in both the 2016 and 2017 budgets to cover all vaccination requirements for animal bite victims.

"There is no need at this point for animal bite victims to save or minimize on the vaccination cost. In the DOH budgets for 2016 and 2017, the fund for post exposure prophylaxis for human rabies is covering 100% of the requirements for all animal bite victims in the country," she said, referring to a previous policy wherein a victim had to share with another person the cost for a human vaccine.

"If you have more than one patient, you can administer the vaccine through intradermal, otherwise, the vaccine can be administered through intramuscular."

The DOH, she said, provides free human vaccines in several animal bite centers in the country, but the vaccine is not covered by PhilHealth.

On oral health, Ubial said the department is providing for 265 dentists who will "accompany" dental vans that were procured this year.

"They will be providing prophylaxis and also treatment, fissure sealants to school children and eventually for the entire population if the supplies last," she added. – Jee Y. Geronimo/Rappler.com