AFTER a busy year for the Department of Health (DOH) in 2009, when the agency helped fight the Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, the DOH in Central Visayas said it is well-prepared for this year.

“We just finished our annual operation plans for the four provinces. Now we will be making the technical assistance plans for the provinces, so that we can support each province’s investment plan for health,” said DOH 7 Director Dr. Susana Madarieta.

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The investment plans for health focus on the four pillars of the DOH’s “Formula 1” framework for health sector reform. A five-year program, Formula 1 will end this year.

“The plan is to address the four pillars of Formula 1, which are good governance in health, health care regulation, health care service delivery and health care financing,” explained Madarieta.

The director said the agency will continue the health programs started last year.

“Looking back, we were able to do a lot of activities, especially (in dealing with) the H1N1 episode,” she said.

On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a pandemic of the new H1N1 flu strain.

As part of DOH’s response, patients who reported flu-like illnesses were immediately given anti-viral medicine to contain the spread of the virus.

A total of 557 patients were treated in Central Visayas in 2009, with 272 testing positive for H1N1.

“We have been handling the situation well. So far, we are not feeling any second wave of the virus and there are no longer a lot of cases in the region,” said Madarieta.

But health officials assured they will stay on their toes should a second wave of the pandemic hit the country.

The health department is expecting the H1N1 vaccines to arrive early this year in Central Visayas, possibly even in January, if these are approved.

“We cannot just rush these kinds of vaccines. Everything has to be sure and safe,” noted Dr. Cora Lou Kintanar, DOH 7 Pandemic Influenza Incident Command spokesperson.

Once the vaccines reach the region, health care workers and those with compromised immune systems will be given the first batch of vaccines.

“We cannot just vaccinate everybody,” admitted Madarieta.