Pangasinan Eyes ‘High-Hanging Fruits’ in Health

“(Aim) for the high-hanging fruits in health. They taste better because of the effort and impact.”

This was the challenge of Dr. Myrna Cabotaje, Department of Health (DOH) Region 1 director, to the finishers of the “Provincial Health Leadership and Governance Program” (PLGP).

She was referring to the goal of attaining zero maternal death after the province was able to improve its service delivery network and bring a slight decline in its maternal deaths—from 23 in 2014 to 22 cases in 2015.

Health in Pangasinan, with its population making up 60 percent of Region 1, creates significant impact on the overall health status of the region; hence, improvements in the province are considered critical.

PLGP, a training program under the DOH and Zuellig Family Foundation joint initiative, is given to governors, provincial health officers, chiefs of hospitals and other relevant provincial government officials. Consisting mostly of executive sessions, PLGP helped provincial health leaders identify gaps in their provincial health and hospital systems that have led to maternal deaths.

Improvements done in the province include the implementation of pregnancy tracking so high-risk women can be identified early on and referred to hospitals that can handle their cases. Reforms are also ongoing to ensure the regular supply of blood. This is needed to address the top cause of maternal deaths in the province: hemorrhage. In 2015, hemorrhage led to 19 of the 22 maternal deaths.

Cabotaje is optimistic the province is now better equipped to address health challenges after its leaders completed the one-year PLGP. Of the 33 provinces under the program, Pangasinan was the last to enroll yet the first to complete the program requirements.

PLGP participants were coached on how to systemically approach health challenges using a roadmap anchored on the six building blocks of health (workforce, service delivery, information dissemination, leadership and governance, financing, and medicine) identified by the World Health Organization.

Focus was also given on the seven critical health indicators functional management committee, available obstetrician, reliable supply of safe blood, no stock-out of medicines, point-of- care Philippine Health Insurance Corp. enrollment, no balance billing, and maternal mortality and morbidity audits.

Speaking on behalf of the former governor now congressman-elect Amado Espino Jr., Vice Governor Jose Ferdinand Calimlim Jr. shared that “PLGP gave the provincial health team broader perspective and better understanding of their crucial and strategic roles in health governance.”

He added, “It affirms our longstanding belief that intensifying public and primary health program cannot succeed without the active and indispensable participation of different municipal and city governments. This is only possible if the provincial government will effectively exercise persuasive influence and leadership over the local chief executives and their respective health governance team and encourage the local governments to give public and primary healthcare the highest priority that it deserves.”