Improving the health status of indigent families by enabling better access to adequate, safe and affordable medicines is one of the goals of the Provincial Government of South Cotabato. To attain this goal, the LGU needed to set up a public and private partnership (PPP) that would hasten the delivery of medicines. Thus, the LGU entered into a formal agreement with the Mahintana Foundation, Inc. (MFI) to implement the Friendly Drugs: Health Plus Shop in a Shop (HPSiS) Project on November 26, 2008.
The project entailed the establishment of a pharmacy in the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital (SCPH). Before the project, the SCPH suffered from lack of adequate and affordable medicines which compelled patients to buy expensive medicines from drugstores outside the hospital.
With the HPSiS in place, the LGU and MFI ensured a steady supply of safe, quality and affordable health plus medicines for the indigent patients of the SCPH. The mechanism ensured compliance with PhilHealth’s policy on No Balance Billing in hospitals and also addressed concerns related to the delayed procurement of medicines and medical supplies. In addition, the project provides the provincial government a rebate equivalent to 70% of the net income, which is utilized for the improvement of hospital services and facilities.
To ensure full compliance with the Generics Act (RA 6675), an Executive Order was issued by the Governor directing all government physicians to only prescribe generic drugs. In addition, Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) compliant certification was required from suppliers to ensure the quality of drugs and medicines.
Since the program started in 2009, it has catered to 132,345 indigent patients, of whom 65% are PhilHealth cardholders. It has also augmented the annual budget of the SCPH by an estimated PhP60M. In addition, the 70% rebates enabled the SCPH to procure, construct and renovate hospital facilities. Meanwhile, the MFI was able to sustain and expand the program.
Having recognized its positive outcome, the Provincial LGU replicated the partnership with other provincial government operated health facilities— Polomolok Municipal Hospital, RHU-Lake Sebu, and Norala District Hospital. The expansion was funded and supported by the Australian Agency for International Development – Philippines-Australia Community Assistance Program (AusAIDPACAP) and was implemented in partnership with the National Pharmaceutical Foundation and the Department of Health.
The Provincial LGU has clearly attained its goal. What is needed now is to upscale the HPSiS to attain the national health agenda, and ultimately provide greater health benefits for the poor.