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PIDS cites flaws in Philippine medical infra program

MANILA, Philippines - Independent government researchers have found the state’s medical infrastructure programs to be plagued with serious flaws and lack of strategic directions and gaps.

In a study, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said the government’s Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), targeted mostly for rural health facilities, will have to address various shortcomings to improve the program’s management.

The HFEP is a program under the Department of Health.

The study surveyed 83 percent of 37 health facilities covered by the HFEP. These included the provinces of Tarlac, Quezon, Catanduanes, Capiz, Surigao del Sur, and Zamboanga del Norte, where 19 infirmaries and hospitals and 18 rural health units and birthing centers are located.

Researchers found the contaminated areas to include service delivery, commissioned contracting, funding for building facilities, coordination, and facility licensing.

Additionally, 14 percent of health facilities were found non-functional, while 24 percent were operating in a partial capacity. Still, less than half or 45 percent have proven to be in good condition.

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The functionality problems varied per facility, PIDS said, pointing to problems ranging from difficulties with physical infrastructure to service shortcomings.

Physical infrastructure problems include lack of access to electricity, construction defects, delays in construction, dysfunctional equipment, and improper maintenance or failure to deliver certain pieces of medical equipment.

Services problems, meanwhile, covered unavailability of doctors, problems with accreditation, and lack of proficiency training for midwives.

The research team of Oscar F. Picazo, Ida Marie T. Pantig, and Nina Ashley O. de la Cruz identified the lack of national and regional health infrastructure plan as critical sources of these problems.

There was lack of proper information and prioritization when it comes to upgrading and construction of medical infrastructure. PIDS also said planning and coordination among agencies were missing.

“Health facilities under the HFEP were funded and contracted individually,” revealed the study, proving “unwieldy, time consuming, management intensive and uneconomical.”

The decision to employ “small, incremental multiyear funding” also contributed to further fragmentation and delay of construction, it added.

The project also encountered problems with licensing standards, affecting space and equipment requirements, quality of work, and facility staffing.

The authors recommended that commissioned contracting is preferable, whereby “a group of projects is pooled together and contracted out as a ‘lot’ or ‘tranche’ to allow contractors to economize on planning and design, bulk procurement of inputs, construction, monitoring, and equipping.


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