Aklan can and Aklan did: Setting the stage for better UHC implementation

Insights from the Field

Gathering health teams from different parts of the country, the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) hosted “Championing Health Together”, the launching Bayang Malusog Community of Practice (CoP) last April 12, 2024. Shared during the event is one victory in pushing for Universal Health Care (UHC): the province of Aklan’s Governance Model for Special Health Fund (SHF).

Innovative District Health Systems

Dr. Leo B. Ismael of the Provincial Health Office (PHO) in Aklan, presented the province’s accomplishments. He highlighted the innovation of Aklan to institutionalize District Health Systems (DHS). With DHS, the government aims to have an effective health care delivery and health system management in Aklan. Additionally, they hope to streamline healthcare delivery by improving patient access through efficient navigation and referral systems through the DHS.

The DHS are managed by the District Health Board (DHB), assisted by the Technical Management Committee (TMC),  which helps enhance the integration of municipalities to DHS. In his testimony, Dr. Ismael shared that he personally facilitated all the DHB meetings and elections for each DHS. Through the meetings, they were able to discuss the challenges being faced by each municipality and their plans as the DHB. 

A challenge mentioned was the creation of guidelines on patient navigation and referral systems. To counter these challenges, the DHB planned to finalize the DHS ordinance, agreement on provincial and municipal sharing, and hiring of additional accountants and managers.

SHF Funding and Distribution

Budgetary appropriations from Aklan’s provincial government and its constituent LGUs are required to be contributed to the SHF in order to fund health-related projects, initiatives, and activities. Initially met with reluctance from some local chief executives regarding percent contribution, the PHO assured them that they will not be at a disadvantage. “If you give your share [to the SHF], the province will also give its share, which is greater than your share, so hindi kayo lugi,” Dr. Ismael said in his discussion. 

A resolution on the distribution of the funds for SHF is set to be issued. The mechanism, sum, or percentages will be considered for the distribution to the respective health districts. The signing of the  agreement will also be held for the 1% sharing of the Provincial Development Fund and 1% Municipal Development Fund.

One key to the success of the program is the support shown by Aklan Governor Jose Enrique Miraflores in accelerating health initiatives.  According to Dr. Ismael, this was vital in materializing the shared vision of an excellent and responsive healthcare system powered by UHC through #OneAklan. He also expressed gratitude for the recent Municipal Leadership and Development Program Module 2 training of ZFF, which aided in initial planning. Majority of MHOs and mayors were present and expressed support for the initiative during this activity.

As mentioned by Dr. Manuel Dayrit, ZFF Trustee and former Secretary of the Department of Health, and one of the invited reactors: “Change is happening before our very eyes; the presentations are a glimpse of the future.” Through the narratives told  during the program, one could see how the steps taken towards the betterment of the implementation of UHC in the country can serve as a reminder that the goal of equitable and quality healthcare for the Filipinos is within our reach. With proper mechanisms and support from the people and the government, we will be able to achieve better health outcomes. The future of UHC is bright and through collective leadership and learning, we can forge healthier and better communities for the Filipinos. 

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