In line with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s pronouncement that he will allocate P1 billion to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), DSWD Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo has released Memorandum Circular No. 16 which mobilizes DSWD Field Offices III, VI, VII, XI and the National Capital Region (NCR) to provide medicine assistance to indigent patients/clients, pending Malacanang’s fund transfer.

Sec. Taguiwalo explained that the Department of Health (DOH) has an ongoing free medicine program for indigents called Medical Assistance Program (MAP),  intended to provide medical assistance to patients seeking consultations, rehabilitation, and examination or otherwise confined in government hospitals. The DSWD provides medical assistance to indigent patients through its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS).

“Pres. Duterte, very much aware of the high costs of medicines and the numerous indigent patients who cannot afford to buy prescription drugs, allocated P1 billion to the President’s Social Fund to enable these patients to access badly-needed medicines.  Pres. Duterte instructed us in the DSWD to formulate guidelines for the program, implement, and administer it immediately,” she said.

The DSWD’s medicine assistance program funded under the Pres. P1 billion fund aims to provide assistance to indigent Filipinos so they can immediately secure much needed prescription medicines.

The beneficiaries of the program are Filipinos who seek assistance from a DSWD office to access prescription medicine. The priorities are 1) families/individuals who are indigent, vulnerable, disadvantaged or those in the informal sector and poor based on the DSWD Listahanan; 2) government employees and contract of services workers; and 3) those who are facing crisis situations as determined by DSWD social workers.

Sec. Taguiwalo explained that prescription medicines of drug dependents undergoing treatment/rehabilitation are not covered by the program.

“A separate program is being created for them,” she said.

The DSWD’s Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) will facilitate the release of the medical assistance. The CIU is a special unit of the DSWD that serves as an action center that immediately responds to the needs of individuals and families in crisis situations.  CIUs are located at the Central office (CO), FO, and/or Satellite Offices in the Provinces.

Sec. Taguiwalo said that the requirements of the programs are fairly simple.

“The DSWD has yet to receive the P1 billion from Malacanang, but we are willing to foot the bill in the meantime so Filipinos who need immediate prescription medicines can access them ASAP,” she said.

“As soon as the fund is available, the DSWD will oversee and manage it and the program. Five percent of the fund will be used for project management,” she added.

She also clarified that beneficiaries will not receive any cash, but referral letters from the DSWD which beneficiaries will take to DSWD partner-drugstores and hospital pharmacies.

Those who need medicine should bring and submit to the nearest CIU the needed original or certified true copy documents, and and/or photocopy documents certified by a CIU social worker:

1) clinical abstract/medical certificate with full name, signature and license number of the attending physician (issued not later than three months);

2) The doctor’s prescription with date and the name of the patient. The prescription should be signed by the attending physician with license number indicated);

3) Barangay certificate of indigency or Indigent Card issued by the medical social service of the hospital; and

4) Any valid ID of the client.

“If the prescription costs P5,000 or less, confirmation by the doctor or his/her duly certified representative of the veracity of the prescription is sufficient for the DSWD to provide the assistance,” Sec. Taguiwalo said.

However, a social case study report prepared by the LGU social worker/medical social worker, or a social case summary prepared by a registered social worker may be required by the CIU social worker to support assessment and recommendation of assistance.

“A social case study report is needed as a supporting document for assistance more than P5,000. A client can avail of the assistance only once within three months,” she continued.

Sec. Taguiwalo also explained that the DSWD can establish partnerships with service providers to ensure that clients are efficiently and effectively assisted immediately. The DSWD can forge contracts or enter memorandum of agreement (MOA) with qualified service providers.

“As a safeguard, in no case will the implementation of the program be delegated and/or transferred to any kind of civil society organization (CSO) regardless of whether it’s a non-governmental organization or a people’s organization,” Sec. Taguiwalo further said.

Finally, Sec. Taguiwalo said that initially, the DSWD will enter MOA with the following regional hospitals: the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital in Manila; the Jose B. Lingad General Hospital   in San Fernando, Pampanga in Region III ; Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC)  in Iloilo in Region VI; Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City in Region VII; and Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City and Davao Regional Hospital (DRH) in Tagum City – both in Region XI. The hospitals were chosen in the regions where there are the highest poverty levels and to ensure the representation of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. #