Virac, Catanduanes – “Great leaders create and leave a legacy.” These were the opening words of Catanduanes Governor Joseph C. Cua during his State of the Province Address (SOPA) at the Convention Center, Capitol Compound on October 26, 2023.

The governor’s speech emphasized the importance of valuing the health of the people, especially in light of the fear and apprehension caused by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. “Alongside the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in 2022, our focus shifted to opportunities for our province to recover from the pandemic’s effects. In contrast to other local governments, Catanduanes aggressively and strategically pursued our healthcare system’s improvement, ensuring the efficiency of our actions to realize our health goals.”

Governor Cua acknowledged the challenges and opportunities without hesitation and faced the problem head-on. “The first things we accomplished are the very promises I made to you in the last SOPA in 2022. This year, we fulfill our other commitments for the betterment of the health of Catandunganons.”

Furthermore, he proudly announced that in the first two quarters of 2023, the province immediately established facilities at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC), the only level-2 government hospital in the province. “We successfully launched the first government-operated hemodialysis unit and the state-of-the-art 32-slice CT scan facility in the capital town of Catanduanes. To date, the hemodialysis unit in EBMC has ten (10) machines that can serve up to forty (40) patients per day.”

These numbers, he stated, are in addition to the four (4) machines installed at the Juan M. Alberto Memorial District Hospital (JMAMDH) in the town of San Andres. Governor Cua added that since this unit became fully operational, it has provided more than 2,200 treatments to hemodialysis patients in the province.

Moreover, he highlighted the high-tech CT scan facility at EBMC, which has served over four hundred (400) patients since the second quarter of 2023 and generated 4.2 million pesos in income for the hospital. “The fees are more affordable compared to private hospitals, saving our fellow Catandunganons from having to travel far or abroad for medical services.”

He also mentioned the establishment of a newborn screening (NBS) satellite continuity facility clinic at the EBMC, thanks to the Department of Health (DOH) grant. With eighteen (18) NBS facilities in the province, Governor Cua stressed that this initiative helps immediately identify and address health conditions or newborns. To enhance communication among health personnel in district hospitals, they have adopted an integrated hospital operations and management information system (IHOMIS).

Governor Cua mentioned the renovation of the out-patient and medical records building, radiology department, and OB complex. He also expressed gratitude to the Church of Latter-Day Saints and other groups for providing additional medical equipment to EBMC, benefiting many Catandunganons.

In this regard, he was pleased to announce that Catanduanes was recognized as one of the top-performing provinces in the 11th Salud Bicolnon Awards by DOH-Bicol in January 2023, a recognition attributed to the effective and rapid implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination program the previous year.

The governor also mentioned the provision of more than 4.1 million pesos to continue implementing the “no balance billing” and Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients (MAIP) program. Over 10,000 patients have been discharged without any payments at local hospitals, thanks to the no balance billing program.

To continue the province’s commitment to healthcare, Governor Cua initiated the Catanduanes Health Caravan in partnership with DOH, the University of the Philippines Alumni Society in America, Ugnayan ng Pahinungod, FIUSA, Bicol Regional Medical Hospital, and others, providing free medical services and surgeries to residents. Additionally, the Catanduanes Eye Care Program has provided prescription glasses to over forty (40) individuals in one day. He expressed gratitude to PBM Robert Fernandez for sponsoring the ordinance and to the ophthalmologists and optometrists who participated in the program.

Governor Cua also emphasized a program addressing the province’s sanitary issues, adopting the UNICEF Water Sanitation and Hygiene Program (WASH). This program aims to provide clean and safe water to residents by installing treatment facilities to prevent water contamination and establish toilets and washing areas in homes. He noted the need to increase the number of accessible and clean restrooms. Additionally, they have initiated an integrated hospital operations and management information system to improve the availability and ease of health information.

Moreover, the governor proudly reported the construction of two hundred (200) restrooms in the towns of Baras, Bato, Virac, and San Andres, costing five million pesos.

He also shared that thirty (30) barangays in four (4) municipalities have received the Seal of Zero Open Defecation Status award, entitling them to cash incentives of ten thousand pesos each next month. The provincial government’s initiative in providing toilets has been a significant step towards achieving zero open defecation status for the province.

Governor Cua added that to strengthen the WASH program, the province distributed a thousand (1,000) SATO taps hand washing equipment to twenty-eight (28) barangays, benefiting four thousand (4,000) individuals. He emphasized that these efforts continue to enhance health sector improvement in various areas.

Furthermore, Governor Cua highlighted the achievements in other government sectors such as education, social welfare, tourism, peace and order, infrastructure, agriculture, and more. (Bicol Peryodiko/Radyo Peryodiko/(RMFRMVLG))