Correct news based on verifiable facts
I am grateful that your Metro columnist, Ramon Tulfo, has manifested some interest in the issue of the confirmation of Cabinet appointees, including myself.
I refer to his “On Target” column in the issue of May 23, 2017, in which a number of statements were put forward despite their being what are now commonly referred to as “fake news.”
Allow me to provide you with the “correct news” based on easily verifiable facts:
First, regarding my trip to Cuba. During the first Cabinet meeting on June 30, 2016, I was instructed by President Duterte to visit Cuba to study and learn the major accomplishments of the Cuban health system. On Aug. 24-25, 2016, I went on such a mission, bringing with me nine public health experts to cover all the specialized fields of public health—promotion, human resource development, service delivery, financing, policy, standards and governance. There was no family member in the trip to Cuba, contrary to what was erroneously announced in the column, least of all any of my supposed “children,” also considering that I have only a son.
Second, regarding the dengue vaccines. There was never any rejection of dengue vaccines in favor of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. A sub-allotment release order amounting to P3.556 billion was released by the Department of Budget and Management to the Department of Health in the last week of December 2Ol5 and was subsequently sub-allotted to the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC), which bought the dengue vaccines from the local distributor.
The PCMC, a highly specialized medical center for children, assumed the national program management of the dengue vaccination effort in Region 3, National Capital Region, and Region 4A. These action points were without precedent, and notwithstanding that the PCMC had no expertise in managing subnational vaccination initiatives.
The first round of the school-based dengue vaccination targeting Grade 4 school children ran from April to June 2016. It attained a low coverage of 60 percent. The second round was conducted in October-December 2016, with around 80-percent coverage. The third round is ongoing until June. Three doses are needed to complete the dengue vaccination, with six months in between doses.
Due to the actual coverage during the first year of implementation, there was a surplus of available potent vaccines that could be used for the target population in the second year of its implementation. It was the decision of the National Expanded Program on Immunization management team NOT to include procurement of dengue vaccine in the final 2017 National Expenditure Program. As for the procurement of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, there was a significant budget increase due to 100-percent targeting of eligible infants and an increased dollar-peso exchange rate.
For the record, and this can be attested to by the fact that I chaired the Integrity Development Committee of the DOH, I have never favored and shall never favor any supplier or distributor of any product that is up for government procurement. Besides, DOH procurements undergo regular procurement processes.
Lastly, regarding the Qatar hospital. The hospital owners are registered with the government of Qatar, and I am sure this can be easily verified by anyone who is willing to do so. I am neither an owner of that hospital nor of any hospital in the Philippines or anywhere else in the world.
I thank Mr. Tulfo for his vigilance against corruption in the DOH and his genuine concern for our people. While I find it difficult to believe that a seasoned journalist would write things in his column that are not based on evidence or are outright untrue, I am grateful for the opportunity to air my side and correct any damaging and untrue statements made against me and my office, as is the editorial policy of the Inquirer. As I have always upheld a policy of transparency at the DOH, I welcome Mr. Tulfo to request any valuable data from us that he might need to write something more uplifting and useful to our countrymen in the future. As public servants, we owe the people this much.
PAULYN JEAN B. ROSELL-UBIAL, MD, MPH, CESO II, Secretary of Health
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