DOH Bicol CHD aims to make Bicolanos among PH’s healthiest individuals by 2040

During the sixth episode of “Kapihan sa Bagong Pilipinas” on July 2, Dr. Rodolfo Antonio Albornoz, OIC-Director of the Department of Health (DOH) Bicol Center for Health Development (CHD), said that the center aims to make Bicolanos among the healthiest in the Philippines and Asia by 2040 through a people-centered, resilient, and equitable system to achieve universal health care.

The achievements and milestones of the DOH Bicol CHD were discussed, as well as the 8-point health action agenda under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration. The key priorities include HIV and tuberculosis, immunization, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), among others. 

With the help of the infectious disease cluster, the first quarter of 2024 saw a 92 percent treatment success rate for 7,008 drug-sensitive TB cases. For drug-resistant TB patients, 140 out of 169 cases, or 83 percent, were successfully treated, according to Albornoz. 

In April 2024, the Philippine Business for Social Progress donated a mobile X-ray van to the Bicol CHD to enhance early tuberculosis detection. Albornoz also highlighted the implementation of the “Handa sa Krisis” agenda, which addressed 98 pertussis cases from January 1 to June 22. Bicol South Luzon Subnational Reference Laboratory also became the region’s first pertussis confirmatory testing site, as certified by the Research Institute for 

The Bicol region is also advancing its HIV treatment, with 54 percent of people living with HIV (PLHIV) receiving antiretroviral therapy. Additionally, three new treatment hubs will be established this year in Camarines Norte Provincial Hospital, Eastern Bicol Medical Center in Catanduanes, and Sorsogon Provincial Hospital.

Albornoz reported 52 percent vaccination coverage for children in 2023, supported by the 400-stakeholder Bicol immunization summit in Legazpi, Albay. They also aim to reduce maternal mortality from 128 to 100 through the National Safe Program and stronger implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Law.

Nutrition targets include reducing the stunting rate for children under five from 10.5 percent in 2023 to 9 percent in 2024 by integrating maternal and child nutrition services and strengthening delivery and policies. The fund allocations of ₱159,215,488.28, with support from the Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Program, are directed towards projects in Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, and Masbate.

WASH initiatives report that 54 percent, or 758,000 households, have access to a basic safe water supply, and 31 percent, or 431,000 households, use safely managed drilling water services.

For non-communicable diseases, 70 percent, or 2.4 million Bicolanos, were screened in 2023 for hypertension and diabetes. 

“Our goal is to promote a healthy workplace and lifestyle-related disease programs,” Albornoz said. 

The region also aims to increase cervical cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment by 50 percent in 2024, supported by a ₱4.6M budget for cancer programs and training for health workers.

This year, 1,883 human resources for health (HRH) personnel will be deployed across the region. The health facilities enhancement program has a ₱2.3 billion fund allocation for 74 facilities, including LGU hospitals, rural health units, super health centers, and barangay health stations. Land-type ambulance units are provided to LGUs, and 564 health facilities are monitored for policy adherence.

The Camarines Sur Treatment and Rehabilitation Center and Malinao Treatment Rehabilitation Center continue to see increasing program completion rates and conduct drug awareness campaigns. The Electronic Logistics Management Information System (eLMIS) is set to digitalize supply chains, with Catanduanes being the first province to achieve 100 percent functionality.

Dr. Albornoz also highlighted the launch of DOH On Demand, a digital system providing health information, and the “Be Healthy With Me!” magazine show, which promotes health campaigns. Upcoming major campaigns will further advance these efforts.

Future plans

Dr. Ronnie Gregorio Gigantone III, medical center chief II of the Bicol Medical Center (BMC),  discussed the current status and future plans of BMC.

“At present, Bicol Medical Center has a functional bed capacity of 1,005 due to adequate manpower and infrastructure. We are in the process of developing a liver center. Additionally, as suggested by DOH, we plan to establish a dental care center this year,” Gigantone explained. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Eric Raymond Raborar, medical center chief II of the Bicol Regional Hospital and Medical Center, elaborated on the collaboration between regional hospitals to enhance healthcare services. 

“Ang Department of Health po ay may disesyte specialties sa kada regional centers. Sa amin po ay lima. Kami kami na lang po ang nagtutulungan…kung sino ang wala, iyon ang bibigyan. Sa 17 target specialty ng DOH, kami kami na lang po ang nagtutulong tulungan,” Raborar stated. 

This cooperation ensures that all regional hospitals can offer the full range of specialties required by the DOH, improving patient care and resource utilization.

Dr. Ramon Echano, Jr. medical center chief I of the Bicol Region General Hospital and Geriatric Medical Center highlighted the recent medical achievements of Bicol Region General Hospital and Geriatric Medical Center, including the first corneal transplant procedure and the first laparoscopic donor nephrectomy procedure. 

“Our goal is to continue providing specialized treatments and improve our medical facilities to cater to the needs of the Bicolano community,” Dr. Echano emphasized.

RND Arlene Reario, the regional nutrition program coordinator of the National Nutrition Council Bicol, provided insights into the region’s malnutrition challenges and strategies. 

“Based sa 2023 data, ang pinaka mataas na stunting o pagkabansot ay nasa Camarines Sur, na may 14.54 percent; at sumunod ang Catanduanes, na may 15 percent; na nangunguna sa buong bansa. Halos triple o higit pa ang pagkakaiba ng pagkabansot sa Camarines Sur dahil sa lawak nito kumpara sa Catanduanes,” she noted. 

“Ang problema ng malnutrisyon ay hindi kayang i-solve lamang ng isang ahensiya. Ang Department of Health ang chair ng governing bodies, pero kakailanganin natin ng all-out support para rito lalo na ang LGU. Napaka halaga na ang lahat ng LGU ay nakikiisa at gumagawa ng kanya-kanyang sariling plano para ma-solve ang kanilang nutritional problems,” Reario emphasized. 

This July is the 50th Nutrition Month, with the theme “Sama-sama sa Nutrisyong Sapat Para sa Lahat,” aiming to push the directional plan of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition. | Jeric Quidoles