People are hoping that Health Secretary Enrique Ona’s resignation will augur will for this sickly nation as it steps into the door of uncertainties in 2015.
It is bad enough that you have ranking politicians in police custody for plunder charges and other corrupt practices, but when you have a public servant leading an organization, such as the Department of Health (DOH), that is suppose to be responsible for ensuring access to basic public health services by all Filipinos through the provision of quality health care and the regulation of all health services and products, but gets selfish and greedy for his own personal interest, then the resultant is having literally a sickly nation.
This is not even mentioning yet the prevalence of graft and corruption reported happening in other government agencies like the Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Department of Public Works and Highways, and even in the Department of Education.
Many in the medical profession who knows Ona and his brand of leadership must have breathe a deep sigh of relief upon knowing that the secretary has finally tendered his resignation, this after waiting for over a month with bated breath the decision of President Benigno Aquino on Ona’s fate.
On the pretext that Ona went on leave because of an allergy to hair dye, the truth of the matter is that he was asked to temporarily vacate his post due to anomalies in the department, foremost of which was his decision to purchase P800 million worth of Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine 10 (PCV 10), which, while cheaper, was not the anti-pneumonia vaccine for children recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO, through our own National Center for Pharmaceutical Access and Management, Formulary Executive Council (NCPAM), recommended the purchase of PCV 13 for the logical reason that it was more cost effective as it covers a lot more pulmonary diseases.
This anomaly was so serious that it dawned on President Aquino and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to have the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to go deeper into the case. The investigation must have looked ominous for Ona.
One controversial issue Ona has been confronted with in the past is when he was asked to report on how the DOH has used the P100 billion generated from the Sin tax (tobacco and alcohol).
Ona is said to have also been involved in the unproven stem cell treatment leading to controversial issues opposed by 20 medical societies in August 2013.
Then when he was first appointed, there were opposition against him because of his alleged involvement in unethical kidney transplant procedures and organ trafficking during his stint as medical director of the National Kidney Institute. The Phil Society of Nephrology opposed his practices at NKTI during that time.
Another issue against Ona, as reported, is his tacit authorization for the use of a drug for the treatment of dengue and malaria that did not pass clinical trial.
Short-cuts, unethical practice and lack of verified studies seem to be Ona’s modus and if this is not a grieve concern for the health of a nation, which even makes other medical practitioner cringe, I do not know what is.