Action for Health Initiatives Inc. (ACHIEVE), Philippines
On 5-9 June 2023, the SKPA-2 Program had its Study Tour on Sustainable Public Funding Mechanisms in the Philippines wherein the sub-recipients, Save the Children International (Bhutan), Family Planning Association (Sri Lanka), and Youth for Health Centre (Mongolia) invited two of their government officials from their Ministries of Health to attend.
The structure of the Study Tour consisted of two components: a public forum with concerned government entities and visits to civil society organization (CSO) community centers delivering HIV services. The activity aimed to help the participants for the participants to:
- Learn from Philippines stakeholders on the rationale and need for public financing mechanisms for CSO HIV services;
- Learn good practices and lessons from the Philippines in developing, drafting, and implementing the Procurement Law, specifically on how to conduct community participation in procurement;
- Gain exposure to public financing practices in the Philippines, including meeting with government architects and administrators of the Philippines social contracting system, as well as community-based organization recipients of social contracting/public financing;
- Able to exchange views on how to improve their respective country’s capacity to develop new public financing mechanisms for CSO HIV service delivery.
CSOs as Partners of Government
During the first day on June 5, the hybrid centered on how procurements of CSO services are being done in the Philippines. Some of the topics included were how the Quezon City local government undertakes its accreditation process for CSOs working in the city, overview of the Procurement Law and Guidelines for the Conduct of Community Participation in Procurement, and discussion related to Local Government Code. For the latter, it was more on the overarching principle of CSOs’ important role in civil society engagement and partnership with the government, which was presented by the Department of Interior and Local Government. At the same occasion, ACHIEVE’s Executive Director also presented how HIV Financing Advocacy in the Philippines is done, to serve as an example on how the sub-recipients can also effectively advocate the same in their countries. By the end of the forum, Mike Merrigan, Technical Director of the SKPA-2 Programme, shared that “the Philippines really has community participation built into governance DNA at all levels. And this makes social contracting a logical extension of this participation.”
The following day, June 6, the Study Tour participants flew to Iloilo City and met with officials from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) Region 6. The discussion focused on the Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment Package (OHAT). The participants were particularly interested to know how the CSOs are accredited as partners and the reimbursement process.
The delegates later went to the Region 6’s Department of Health (DOH) – Center for Health and Development. The latter’s Regional Director, Dr. Adriano P. Suba-an, warmly welcomed the delegates in their office. Carlo Carillo, HIV Program Manager of the DOH Region 6, later presented the various mechanisms by which they engaged the services of the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP) – Iloilo in setting up the KnowTell Health and Wellness Lounge, which is a mall-based clinic. According to him, the DOH partnered with FPOP “to address the limitations of traditional government healthcare services and to provide alternative service delivery points. Access to healthcare services was expanded beyond traditional hours and locations to accommodate the needs of young people.”
Best Practices of CSO Procurement
The Study Tour participants visited the Anglo Community Center of The LoveYourself (TLY) in the afternoon of June 5. Danvic Rosadiño, Programs and Innovations Director, narrated how TLY was first approved as a TB Directly Observed Treatment Shortcourse (DOTS) facility which enabled them to be accredited by PhilHealth and receive reimbursement claims for providing TB services. They then applied for additional accreditation as HIV primary healthcare provider. Guided by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) standards, TLY was eventually approved as a primary care facility.
The group also had the chance to see the KnowTell and Wellness Lounge at the Robinsons Mall in Iloilo City. They appreciated the innovative way by which the regional DOH procured the services of FPOP in setting up the facility which is attractive to the public and encourages them to avail of reproductive health services and HIV testing, especially the youth.
The last day of the Study Tour was the work-planning session which was more of an internal check-in with the sub-recipients regarding their progress towards defining their domestic financing mechanism. The consultants of Save the Children Bhutan and Youth for Health Center Mongolia and the Financial Sustainability Advisor of ACHIEVE presented their planned Roadmap on Social Contracting. Afterwards, the sub-recipients were also tasked to identify their technical assistance (TA) needs from ACHIEVE, which also serves as a regional TA provider of SKPA-2.
Reflections and Learnings
The final part of the whole Study Tour was the reflection session. The participants recounted the learnings they got from the various activities on social contracting, and which of these they think would be suitable to replicate in their respective countries. For most of them, they really appreciated the visits to the CSO community centers, which are, “Integrated, friendly, welcoming, not just health-wise but it’s a different way and branding for service provision,” according to Choki Dolkar from the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) of Bhutan. Dr. Tashi Dendup from Save the Children International also added, “It’s amazing to see how The LoveYourself has grown and it inspired us to be persistent in the effort in sustaining the HIV programs and services. We hope we can take some of these and put them into practice, not just a model.”
For the Mongolia delegates, Gankhuyag Gombosuren who serves as the Head of the Division of Non-Communicable Diseases and Acting Head of the Communicable Diseases Division of the Department of Public Health, notes that while the activities have been tiring, they were all worthwhile. He also considers the mobile facility of Department of Health Region 6 and the KnowTell and Wellness Lounge as the best practices that they can take inspiration from.
Lastly, Dr. Mahendra Arnold, Deputy Director General of the Public Health Services, stated that the Study Tour “is very useful. Seeing ground realities can help us make policy decisions. In Sri Lanka, 100% of the services are provided by the government, we will have to think of certain ways on how to sustain these services especially to these populations and conduct them at different levels. It’s nice to see how the DOH partnered with CSOs as well.”
About the Contributor
Project Officer, SKPA-2
Action for Health Initiatives Inc. (ACHIEVE), Philippines
Sharl has been a development worker since 2009, first working with people’s organizations and NGOs in the agriculture and food security sector before shifting to human rights issues and currently, HIV and AIDS.