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Challenging search for right health secretary

/ 12:16 AM June 03, 2016

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has filled all key slots in his Cabinet but for a few, among them the health and tourism departments. The search for the tourism secretary is in the final stage, he said in a press conference held June 1. It’s picking the suitable health secretary that’s demanding further and deeper study.

Stakeholders in the national health business have differing opinions about the difficulty Duterte is facing in picking a health secretary.

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“It’s not because there are few candidates to choose from,” said a provincial hospital owner. “We have a deep bench of medical talents, anyone of whom can perform creditably as the nation’s guardian of health, our own surgeon general, so to speak.”

The problem is not that we lack brilliant, capable medical talents who can fill up the position, a hospital director responded, adding that “the challenge is finding a man who is both in possession of vast medical know-how and the same amount of administrative and managerial skills.” Having encyclopedic medical knowledge is not all there is about running the health department, he noted. Having a grip of craft alien to the medical profession but common in the corporate world like budgeting, human resources management, etc. is needed by whoever is in charge of the health department, he said.

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“Such a person, a brilliant doctor, adept in administrative and managerial function is not easy to find,” a pharmaceutical executive butted in. “Doctors are generally shy about their strength and achievements—unless they’re in politics. I can cite you one example, Dr. Teodoro Javier Herbosa. A brilliant surgeon. Lots of experience in his field and in work unrelated to his profession. But not many have heard of this man. Which is a wonder. The guy worked as undersecretary of the Department of Health for nearly five years and the record of his involvement and achievement during those years looks as thick as a Tolstoy tome.”

There are many other doctors recommended by their former colleagues to be put at the helm of the health department. They are humble and self-effacing going about their business in near-anonymity, like Doctor Herbosa, but who are towers of competence, skill and probity who can be equal to whatever challenge that the health department will face in the coming months and years. Hopefully, they would catch the attention of President-elect Duterte.

—MART DEL ROSARIO, [email protected]

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TAGS: Cabinet, health secretary, Rodrigo Duterte
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