Herbosa as health chief draws both approval, disapproval
MANILA, Philippines — The appointment of Dr. Teodoro Herbosa as the Department of Health (DOH) secretary has elicited mixed reactions.
In separate statements, the DOH, including former officer in charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, and the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) backed Herbosa, while the Alliance of Health Workers opposed the appointment.
“It’s very good … looking forward to his dedication to serve people and at the same time his experience in public health, as a medical expert and at the same time having been appointed before as undersecretary of the DOH makes him fit to be the secretary of health,” the PCP president, Rontgene Solante, said in an interview over ABS-CBN’s “TeleRadyo.”
“As president of PCP, we always support who the government will appoint as secretary of health because we want to be looking forward, looking ahead, especially with implementations of important government projects, especially the universal health care,” said Solante.
Solante even advised Herbosa to focus on laying down directions on how to approach the COVID-19 problem, particularly vaccination, especially after the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was no longer a public health emergency.
“Other vaccines are also affected, with the waning vaccination rate — like measles, tetanus. We need to address those things including the control of tuberculosis and HIV,” Solante said.
Vergeire also welcomed Herbosa’s appointment, saying: “Our new secretary — Secretary Ted — can count on the wholehearted support of the entire DOH family,.”
‘Insult to health workers’
On the other hand, the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) opposed Herbosa’s appointment, citing his previous move to privatize government hospitals during his tenure as health secretary from 2010 to 2015.
“[Marcos’] appointment of Herbosa is a clear manifestation of the president’s extreme lack of concern for the lives, health, and welfare of the health workers and the people,” the AHW said in a statement.
“Herbosa’s appointment is a big insult to health workers and indigent patients who rely on free and quality health services in public hospitals and other health facilities.”
According to the AHW, Herbosa does not have the qualities a DOH chief should possess.
What the position calls for, the AHW said, is someone who values the call of health workers for a salary increase and better benefits, someone who is determined to protect and defend the health workers against discrimination, intimidation, and violence.
The Presidential Communications Office announced Herbosa’s appointment as health secretary on Monday. He took his oath of office the following day before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
In his oath, Herbosa pledged to usher in universal healthcare in the country by strengthening health sector strategy interventions and implementing healthcare reforms.
Aside from serving as health undersecretary, Herbosa served as special adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic.
Herbosa also once served as vice president of the University of the Philippines, before resigning days after receiving backlash due to a remark involving community pantries — a nationwide public movement providing free basic needs including food, rice, and vegetables to those in need during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.