Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte has filed a measure that aims to institutionalize the pandemic-era patient navigation and referral system to maintain and further expand the linkages among healthcare providers throughout the country and enable Filipinos to immediately gain access to medical care and treatment.
“The One Hospital Command, which was later called the National Patient Navigation and Referral Center (NPNRC), was used during the pandemic mainly as a means to quickly refer Covid-19 patients to available nearby hospitals and healthcare facilities. This should be improved and expanded into a nationwide network and given sufficient funding to be an effective component of our Universal Health Care (UHC) program,” Duterte said.
Duterte said the scope and functions of this network, to be called the National Patient Navigation and Referral System (NPNRS) are provided under House Bill 7574, which he has filed with Benguet Rep. Eric Yap and ACT-CIS Partylist Rep, Edvic Yap.
The NPNRS will interconnect and facilitate communication among the local government units (LGUs), local and national government agencies, hospitals, infirmaries, telehealth service providers and other health facilities. Its primary goal is to ensure the efficient use of the country’s scarce health resources by assisting all types of patients in accessing health care facilities appropriate to their medical needs.
“Institutionalizing a patient navigation and referral system, which is a type of service delivery network, will ensure the continuing provision of quality care through the combination of capacities of individual health service delivery points into a unified delivery system,” the bill’s authors said.
The NPNRS will also include patient navigation and referral services to the Malasakit Centers and other government and non-government organizations (NGOs) to help indigent patients needing financial assistance for medical expenses beyond what is covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), Duterte said.
HB 7574 makes the existing NPNRC the implementing arm of the NPNRS.
The NPNRC will provide, among others, patient navigation assistance services, facilitate coordination and referral within or across health care provider networks, conduct data analytics to ensure efficient utilization of health services, and improve access to healthcare in alignment with the UHC Act.
“Now that the public health emergency due to Covid-19 has been lifted, the NPNRC can continue to function as a unit under the Department of Health (DOH) to cater to all types of patients to help them gain access to affordable medical care,” Duterte said.
“Let’s put to good use the lessons we have learned from the pandemic. Institutionalizing the patient navigation and referral system is one of them,” Duterte said.
To be able to perform its tasks, the bill gives the NPNRC access to information on health facilities, which may include, but not limited to, current bed allocation and utilization, current Health Human Resources, and other data as may be deemed necessary by the DOH Secretary.
Under the bill, the NPNRC shall coordinate with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) for connectivity support.
The measure also aims to establish Regional Patient Navigation and Referral Centers (RPNRCs) in all administrative regions of the country. The existing Regional One Hospital Command Centers in each region and in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region
In Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) shall be lodged under the Center for Health Development of their respective regions.
Under the bill, any prank or false calls to the phone lines of the NPNRC done to cause mischief or disrupt the operations of the Center is punishable with imprisonment ranging from 1 month and 1 day to 6 months or a fine ranging from P10,000 to P50,000, or both.
The measure also penalizes officials, medical practitioners, and employees of health facilities who refuse to accept patients referred by the NPNRC or RPNRCs without just or reasonable grounds. Such violations are punished by imprisonment of not less than 6 months and 1 day but not more than 2 years and 4 months, or a fine ranging from P20,000 to P100,000, or both, under the bill.
Directors, officers or members of management of health facilities who commit this violation will suffer heavier penalties—imprisonment of 4 to 6 years, or a fine ranging from P100,000 to P500,000 or both.