Back in harness
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - June 30, 2020 - 12:00am

“The government’s loss is the private sector’s gain.” That’s what I wrote in this column a year ago, when I commented on the resignation of Dr. Roy Ferrer to give President Duterte a free hand in constituting a new Board and appointing a new president in PhilHealth.

It turned out the government has regained this good competent man.

Dr. Roy has returned to public service. Only last February 2020, Dr. Roy was appointed by President Duterte to become the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) in charge of DOH operations covering Visayas and Mindanao. That’s a strong presidential vote of confidence, in my book.

But that’s getting ahead two pieces of good news.

The Commission on Audit probe was prompted by orchestrated but unfounded charges of over a hundred billion of pesos in losses in the State health insurance firm. But already a year ago, the President said he didn’t doubt Dr. Ferrer’s integrity and competence.

The first piece of good news is this: Just a week ago, COA disclosed its findings that there is no such a thing as a P154-billion loss in PhilHealth. In a letter dated June 10, 2020 to current PhilHealth president Ricardo C. Morales (general ret.), the COA confirmed that its auditors found no losses amounting to P154 billion!

“I have been vindicated,” said Dr. Roy, after reading the COA report. He knew he was right that there were no such losses, because he precisely installed many safeguards to prevent needless financial bleeding or theft when he was PhilHealth chief. He pointed out that PhilHealth realized P11.6 billion in surplus, leaving PhilHealth in a very sound financial standing.

In its investigation, COA audited the state insurance firm’s books, following a three-part so-called Special Report of a daily newspaper (not the Philippine STAR). After such probe, COA made this conclusion: “As culled from the audited financial statements of PhilHealth for five years … nowhere can be found nor can be derived the purported losses in an aggregate amount of P154 billion.”

The COA Report named the newspaper reporter (but we are not printing it here), whose reckless writing has placed the entire PhilHealth Board members, which led to the Board members’ mass resignation. This is another case of irresponsible writing that is giving the field journalism a bad name.

Now the second piece of good news: The timing of Dr. Roy’s return to government is perfect. I am sure the President has noted that the Vis-Min area really needed a dedicated and competent health official in the two island groups, especially that Visayas and Mindanao are many miles away from “Imperial Manila,” the seat of power – political and economic.

“It is a baptism of fire of sorts,” the health official remarked, “because I came in when we were already battling the deadly virus. Since nobody had any experience in dealing with this public health crisis, there was no time to waste, and therefore we got down to work quickly.”

Dr. Roy took the helm of the nine Centers for Health Development (CHDs) – which include the MOH Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) – in the vast Vis-Min area. First, there was the “urgent need of integrating all the initiatives and responses to contain the spread of COVID-19” and to save people. Second, the Vis-Min DOH must similarly deal with many ailments which are non-COVID.

Dr. Roy instantly has a big job in his hands. He coordinates all nine CHDs for daily situational reports, conduct virtual meetings daily – meeting all to enhance everyone’s capability to deal with the virus; twice-a-week meetings with the DOH Task Force Response Operations to handle immediate needs of hospitals and health development centers; and has a weekly executive committee meetings with key DOH officials at head office level concerning our anti-COVID response.

Once appointed DOH Asec, Dr. Roy immediately faced the issues of shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), lack of supplies for testing, and the sustained enhancement of training for health frontliners. This was immediately addressed when Dr. Roy collaborated with other Vis-Min DOH officials and coordinated prompt action with the DOH head office.

While in the thick of the action, the Vis-Min health official has made forward plans to establish resource management systems to assure hospitals and other health facilities of a ready supply of such resources as PPEs, laboratory supplies, and well-trained manpower. “We are getting ready for the surge, since cases have not yet reached their peak,” he assuringly said.

Also, the health official said that DOH is now preparing themselves and our people for the onset of the rainy season, since many diseases affect our people when typhoons and floods come.

Our people are thankful that a good man like Dr. Roy Ferrer is back in harness. He is now moving forward, especially that he has been amply vindicated by the COA Report. “I am leaving that behind me, and I pray for PhilHealth president Morales’ success, because we need the health insurance firm for the full implementation of the Universal Health Care,” Dr. Roy remarked. It was during his PhilHealth presidency when the UHC was launched.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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