THE Department of Health’s (DOH) special adviser for non-communicable diseases, Dr. Tony Leachon, called on health experts on Friday to focus on the government’s health agenda for Filipinos, which has been delayed for a year now.
Leachon issued the statement as former Health Secretary and now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin criticized the appointment of Leachon, stressing that he is not an expert on public health.
Leachon, a former Special Adviser to the National Task Force against Covid-19, had testified during the Dengvaxia case at the Quezon City-Regional Trial Court, where Garin, as then-health secretary during the Dengvaxia controversy, was among those impleaded.
“Now it is time—in fact, it is past time—to move on. Our health agenda has been delayed for a year now,” he said.
“It is time to stop the pursuit of personal destruction and the prying into personal lives and get on with our national agenda. Our country has been distracted by this matter for too long, and I take responsibility for my part in all of this in trying to teach and educate patients on public safety and medical problems, to heal helpless people, and to lead where people refuse to take on due to the fear of reprisals,” he said.
During the DOH budget briefing, Garin told DOH chief Ted Herbosa, “Do you think it’s fair for the DOH to give ₱100,000 to a person whose statements were always skewed and malicious?”
But Leachon said, “I can work without compensation, which I did in 2012 when I worked as a one-peso consultant for DOH Sec. Enrique Ona for noncommunicable diseases that led to the passage of the landmark Sin Tax law of 2012, or even outside of the DOH to help reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases, which currently kill 500,000 people a year or 1,500 people a year.”
Leachon also clarified that he was invited to join by Herbosa and did not volunteer himself for the position.
“I believe in the competence and capabilities of Sec. Ted Herbosa as DOH secretary. We worked together during the Covid pandemic as national advisers to the national task force. In my humble opinion, he is the best person and leader for the job. We need him now to put directions and get results for our people,” he said.
“We have important work to do—real opportunities to seize, huge problems to solve, real food security to tackle, and great economic matters to face,” he said.
Earlier, the DOH admitted that health-care migration is continuously affecting the health-care service in the country, with the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) citing a lack of livable wages and just benefits, job instability, and a lack of security of tenure and employment opportunities as health workers’ reasons for leaving the Philippines.
Herbosa vowed to provide a solution to keep Filipino nurses and doctors working in the country.