Master in Public Management major in Health Systems and Development
Dr. Brent Andrew Viray
Dr. Brent Andrew Viray brings hope to the sick People of Dingalan, Aurora
By Generoso Roberto, MD
Being sick can be expensive. A serious illness could land a huge blow to a family‘s finances, especially if there is no insurance or any form of risk protection. There are countless stories of families that lose their savings and their properties, and where driven to poverty due to their medical bill.
Learning by experiencing
Dr. Brent Andrew Viray is very much aware of these realities. His mother died of kidney cancer while his father, an OFW and the family‘s bread winner had a stroke. They had neither insurance nor savings. Dr. Viray had to learn to balance study and work to earn money for his day to day expenses, allowance for his siblings, and to buy their needs at home. He became a coach and choreographer for different cheerleading teams such as the UP Pep Squad, which he was a member. His job would sometimes last up to late in the evening or at dawn. This he had done while going through college aside from the rigors of being a medical student.
As a Doctor to the Barrio Batch 30 and MPM-HSD Batch 4, he was assigned to Dingalan, a third class municipality of the province of Aurora, almost entirely dependent on their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). Dingalan has a mountainous terrain that is mostly forested with rivers and stream draining to the Dingalan Bay. People in the town are mostly farmers, foresters and fishermen. As a Municipal Health Officer (MHO) of this community, Dr. Viray was guided by his previous experiences on how he would approach his work. Not wanting for other people to undergo similar suffering, he spearheaded several initiatives and advocacies in his municipality to promote health and health service delivery. His first order of action was the accreditation of their Rural Health Unit (RHU) and through his efforts they were given a 5-in-1 PhilHealth accreditation and does became the 1st MHO in the Philippines to engage in that kind of accreditation.
Even though Dr. Viray had succeeded in the 5-in-1 accreditation of his RHU, he felt that it still was not enough. Majority of the patients that he sees in his RHU are not PhilHealth members. Everyday a number of families still goes to elected officials to beg for money for their medical bills. On further investigation, Dr. Viray noted that Dingalan, as of 2003, has the lowest PhilHealth coverage in Region 3. This might be attributed to the absence of Local Government Unit (LGU)-sponsored families and low PhilHealth enrolment to the Individually Paying Program. The PhilHealth office is inaccessible especially to those that are not well off and there is a lack of knowledge among the people of Dingalan regarding PhilHealth and its benefits.
To address these problems, Dr. Viray initiated the “PhilHealth-to-the-Barrios (PTTB)“, an online PhilHealth desk in order to bring PhilHealth closer to the people by enabling them to know more about PhilHealth and its benefits. It provides handy answers to membership queries to real-time registration to membership and payment. It gives fast turn-around time for any transactions and questions and concerns could be answered immediately.
In his Action Plan and Project (APP), a thesis equivalent for the Master in Public Management major in Health Systems and Development (MPM-HSD), titledPhilHealth-To-The-Barrios: an Online PhilHealth Desk as a Sustainable Strategy to Achieve Financial Risk Protection in Dingalan,Aurora, Dr. Viray evaluated the PTTB. It was shown in his paper that the program resulted to positive health financing outcomes. For the LGU, it stimulated the creation of health financing program and a change of perspective from a dole-out system to a more sustainable health financing aid through legislation and governance. The beneficiaries gained a more efficient health financing behavior, increased capacity to utilize PhilHealth services, and there was an increase in Individual Paying membership enrolment. Through the PTTB, there was noted an increase in the utilization of the 5-in-1 PhilHealth accredited RHU services and there was more efficient claims filing. Dr. Viray‘s APP garnered accolades and a gold medal for best APP.
Since then, he had several engagements as resource speaker for PhilHealth and discussions are being made to adopt some of his innovations to the rest of the Philippines.
Through the work of Dr. Brent Viray, many in his municipality no longer fear plunging to debt and poverty whenever a family member becomes sick. It gives hope that a day would come that an illness, no matter how severe, will not entail financial catastrophe to an individual and his family.