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Healthcare infrastructure seen requiring extensive private sector investment

REUTERS

THE PHILIPPINES must focus its public–private partnership (PPP) investment on healthcare infrastructure to best prepare for future crises, government and private sector leaders said.

“Our healthcare infrastructure is clearly not where we want it to be,” National Task Force Against COVID-19 Deputy Chief Implementer Vivencio B. Dizon said in an online event organized by the Ateneo School of Government Wednesday.

“We saw that when our capabilities were tested during the pandemic,” he said. “What, I think, this pandemic has shown us is we really have to invest in this kind of infrastructure.”

Other Asian economies like Taiwan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong were better prepared for the pandemic because their experiences with the previous healthcare crises prompted them to invest in healthcare infrastructure, he added.

“We really, really have to invest in the sort of community-based infrastructure that our neighboring countries have. No need to (re)invent the wheel here,” Mr. Dizon said.

The private sector will be crucial, he added, in continuing to maintain testing laboratories built during the pandemic.

“Government can’t do this alone… our track record at running and maintaining all of these facilities is not really that great. We have to work with the private sector.”

Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation Chief Resilience Officer and Advisor Guillermo M. Luz added that the country must assess how it will plug gaps in healthcare service delivery.

“One is the testing capacity — that has been addressed, now it’s got to be maintained. The second is if we take a look at our dependence on certain items like PPE (personal protective equipment) for instance, we were near 100% dependent on imports for a long time, and we still are heavily dependent,” he said.

“We were at the mercy of the market in terms of pricing and availability… I think we need to kind of consider building up a medical-grade PPE industry, not only to service the Philippines but potentially (developing) an export industry,” he added.

Mr. Luz said the Philippines does not have to depend on the public health system for the vaccine, and instead combine public and private resources to develop a mass vaccination program. “We can lean on private hospitals and private clinics to help in the vaccination program.”

Meanwhile, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) is urging the government to invest in healthcare infrastructure at tourism destinations.

PCCI President Benedicto V. Yujuico said local governments should aim to exceed the National Government infection-control protocols when building facilities.

“Investing in infection control facilities (with) improved ventilation, and re-designing spaces to allow greater social distancing are significant for reinvigorating the industry and will benefit the constituents as well,” he said in a statement Wednesday. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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