MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Appointments confirmed Francisco Duque III as Secretary of Health Wednesday afternoon, February 7, following a hearing in which he almost broke into tears when Senator Risa Hontiveros questioned him about the Dengvaxia controversy, which has seen fearful parents refuse to have their children vaccinated for other diseases.
Duque said he was doing everything he could to address the problem and attended flag-raising ceremonies at his department so he could talk to health personnel, sometimes he admitted to the point of hectoring them, but also to assure them that they would overcome and learn from the lessons of the crisis to ensure it is not repeated again.
After saying it was his hope to restore the Department of Health to its “glory days,” Duque ran out of words and became misty-eyed.
Duque got off to a rocky start at the hearing when members of the Commission on Appointments took him to task over the issue of overstocking of medicines purchased by the DOH central office, with Senator Panfilo Lacon citing reports that some of the stocks were rotting away in some places even as others were suffering shortages.
Lacson also noted what he called a “disconnect” between the department and local government units over the purchase and supply of medicines to the barangays.
The senator estimated that P1.7 billion in medicines was wasted last year.
Duque admitted that when he took over as Health secretary last November, he, too, was surprised to discover the overstocking of some medicines, such as Lozartan and that, despite this, there were plans to purchase more the following year.
He said he had made the monitoring of medical stocks a priority even as he admitted, in response to Lacson’s observation of problems in the DOH’s supply chain, that their supply-driven procurement of drugs was a cause of concern because it had created a disconnect between the agency’s head and regional offices.
Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Sato advised Duque to be more proactive in dealing with the DOH’s problems.
Duque, who was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte last October, also served as Health secretary under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.