To the Members of the Commission on Appointment especially those who are known to support health advocacies in the past.
We, health advocates, appeal to the Commission on Appointments to immediately act on the official appointment of the Department of Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial. Your approval would be the most concrete show of support for the government’s call to serve the poor.
Public Health Track Record
Secretary Ubial’s track record in public health makes her a standard bearer for fulfilling the goals of the Philippine health agenda and in ushering in a new era of universal health care where those who have the least can have the most in healthcare.
As one coming from the ranks, she possesses deep understanding and appreciation of the importance of primary health care through her decades-long public health service and engagement with communities. We strongly attest to this, as under her leadership, the DOH has been our consistent partner in shaping grounded health policies even as we have critically engaged questionable ones, and pushing for important legislation that has been proven to benefit the Filipinos.
Not Just a Doctor
There are many doctors around, but not all of them are public servants or even public health experts. A doctor has experience in treating people for a fee while a seasoned public health doctor has expertise in both treating the poor and in improving the health environment of the whole barrio.
A seasoned public health expert like Sec Ubial did not only manage, in a consultative manner, potential epidemics like Dengue, HIV AIDS, Zika, Tuberculosis, Malaria with treatment but also, policy-wise, paved the road for preventive measures such as check-ups, promoting healthy lifestyles and Universal Healthcare. The dynamism and forward thinking of the Secretary has to lead the way to resolve the decade-long delays in the progress of policies pertaining to health promotion, primary care, mental health, universal health care, and treatment for substance and drug abuse.
Duty Travels are Necessary
Travels are a necessary part of the duty since national health can draw lessons and opportunities from global best practices and initiatives. An evidence-based standard in health directs prudent decision making, as lives of people are not to be trifled with. Furthermore, the Secretary of Health’s participation in important fora helps broaden the perspectives, capacities, and competencies within the Philippine health system. For instance, the trip to Qatar allowed Filipino doctors to acquire the license in the particular country, and the trip to Cuba inspired medical education reforms that are underway to address the lack of health human resource in the country—exposures that should have guided Philippine public health long ago.
Merely quantifying duty or official travel, which are clearly not luxury trips, should not be a ground for striking down an appointment of a public servant who is doing her job to bring home replicable practices from other countries and for establishing health diplomacy as part of the strategy to ensure global health security of the nation in light of viruses like MersCoV, bird flu, and Zika.
Equitable Medical Assistance
Being an Integrity Management leader, the Secretary is a stickler for rules. So it is during her term that we have seen a Department of Health that is closely working with agencies and LGUs in order to allow the poor to tap the medical assistance program. She does not tolerate arbitrary decisions on who gets medical assistance.
Sustaining Good Public Health Reforms
A favorable decision of the Commission on Appointments, once and for all, will enable the agency, through the leadership of Secretary Ubial, to draw the much-needed focus and attention on the delivery of essential public health service for all Filipinos and reforms towards a comprehensive public health system. In a span of a year, she has already laid the groundwork for critical health reforms, as outlined in the Philippine Health Agenda 2016-2022, which envisions an equitable, inclusive, transparent, accountable, efficient, and quality health system. Delaying or ultimately denying her appointment will likely derail the trajectory of the positive momentum in the public health sector, such as the strengthening of primary health care and frontline services, and the roadmap towards Universal Health Care.
Inspiration for all Public Health Workers
We are in a midst of a public health workers crisis. The confirmation of a public health worker who rose through the ranks will inspire thousands of frontline workers to join public health service.
We have faith that it is the time that a true public servant is given the opportunity to assume the responsibility and privilege of overseeing a vital government program that ensures people’s right to health and well-being. Having worked in the public health sector for a long time, we can say for certain that the whole community is united in the stand that confirming a health secretary with such a track record would be the single best contribution that the Congress can make to usher the country into the era of health for all Filipinos.
Dr. Alberto Ong Jr. (Doctors to the Barrio, Batch 30)
Dr. Ramon Pedro Paterno (Universal Health Care Study Group, University of the Philippines Manila)
Full list of health advocates mentioned in this press release: HealthJustice, Philippine Government Employees Association, National DOH Employees Association, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, WomanHealth Philippines, Ban Toxics, Medical Action Group, Action for Health Initiatives, Hope for the Youth Foundation, Foundation of Our Lady of Peace Mission, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation, New Vois Association of the Philippines, Action for Economic Reforms, Health Care Without Harm, Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society, Health Futures Foundation, Natasha Goulborn Foundation, Philippine Center for Population and Development, Sarilaya, Dr. Alberto Ong, and Dr. Ramon Paterno
Image via Ramir G. Cambiado