Meds through government
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2019 - 12:00am

Officials at the Department of Health have been pushing for a second round of price reductions on medicines pointing out that retail prices are still high for branded medicines and that even generic medicines are still four times higher than counterpart products in other Asian countries. The word “retail” stuck in my mind and I was reminded of the fact that every time I find myself in a government hospital, I am barely able to buy enough medicines because government pharmacies stock very little and offer few choices. In fact many doctors even issue prescriptions and then tell their patients to just step outside the hospital and buy the medicines because the government hospital don’t carry the meds in stock! This is the reason why many Filipinos end up buying at the big chain stores such as Mercury or Watsons which means that there will be an added cost because of the marketing and carrying cost of numerous medicines in substantial amounts.

With this in mind, what needs to be done is for the DOH and our legislators to come up with the necessary laws, procedures and budget so that the DOH can actually “compete” with retail drug stores and be able to buy a wide array of medicines in bulk and sell them at “government prices” inside government hospitals. The government has the biggest purchasing power in the country so they can, through the DOH buy medicines in bulk, this automatically gives the DOH power to negotiate, and drug manufacturers would love nothing more than to deal with government directly because they are guaranteed bulk purchases and payment without having to enter into multilayered discounts and promos etc. which they have to with the drugstore chains. If the government and Congress actually achieved this goal, government hospitals will become one-stop shops where they have the physicians, facilities, PhilHealth representatives, and stocked pharmacies at government prices. This is one sure way of bringing down prices because of the volume discount and elimination of the carrying cost and profit added on by drugstore chains. It also addresses the issue of access to medicines.

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Everyone in Metro Manila is clearly obsessed with the traffic problem and not a week goes by that the topic is not mentioned or talked about in print, broadcast or social media. Just about everyone has come up with suggested solutions but the wheels of change turn excruciatingly slow. Word is, the DILG will be issuing thousands of “show cause” orders to barangay captains all over the country for failing to comply with President Duterte’s orders to clear primary roads and alternative routes. If they fail to properly explain they will be recommended for suspension or removal by the President himself.

The problem that village elders are facing apparently has to do with the removal of politically installed lamp posts, trees protected by law, junction boxes of telephone companies, and zoning conflicts such as apartments that don’t have enough parking spaces or business owners who park trucks, delivery vans, jeepneys and tricycles inside residential areas. Barangay heads are also conflicted or endangered with strict enforcement of laws so they simply choose to wait for the MMDA and the DILG to conduct clearing operations in their villages so they can wash their hands of the blame and be able to live at peace with their neighbors and constituents. One thing Usec Diño agreed on was that Senator Wynn Gatchalian should add on to his “no garage – no car” bill is that apartments and townhouses must have sufficient parking and all registered commercial or “for hire” vehicles must also have commercial garages or parking bays.

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Last week, news reports once again featured the Pasig River Ferry or what’s left of it as a commuter transport option. What shocked me is that the boats shown in the reports were not the “real ferry boats” that had enclosed cabins or bench seats. What was shown were “tug boats” and the likes. There used to be nice ferryboats servicing the Pasig but I guess they were all left to rot after the government and the private operators could not agree on fares and terms. The constant failure of one group after another and the dilapidation of the ferryboats show that the private sector simply can’t run the system and earn enough profit. So why not have the DOST, the Navy and/or UP to design and manufacture honest to goodness ferryboats designed for Pasig River realities. Once we develop the boats, then we can ask the Navy and the Coast Guard to operate or co-operate the system both for personnel training and exposure as well as a commuter service to help reduce the difficulty of traveling for some of our kababayans.

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Members of the Senate should stop playing nice with the DPWH NCR and start investigating them as to why their contractors cannot build roads that last more than 6 to 8 months. I recently drove through C5 coming from SLEX last Sunday and I was shocked to see that the truck lane across BGC looked and felt like the road had sunk or dissolved. It is clear that the truck lane of C5 will be subjected to thousands of overloaded trucks daily so why not simply build super thick and super strong roads instead of blocks and stretches that are designed and built to fail. The current practice represents design obsolescence and might qualify as a serious case of graft if DPWH officials persist in a practice that costs the government millions of pesos worth of “repeat and repair” projects. Senators may have more sensational fish to catch, but catching the crooks and incompetents in the DPWH NCR will save us hundreds of millions yearly!

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