DAVAO DEL NORTE -- The province of Davao del Norte continues to lead the way in providing better quality health care by pioneering undertakings that allow constituents to enjoy optimal and cost-efficient services at the appropriate levels.

Provincial and local officials, and health professionals launched the maternal newborn child health and nutrition (MNCHN) Service Delivery Network (SDN), Health Referral System (HRS) and the Operationalization Manual for the San Isidro, Kapalong, Asuncion and Talaingod (SIKAT) health development cluster (HDC).

The three other HDCs in the province are expected to launch their respective health referral systems within the year.

Dr. Lady Jedfeliz Castillo-Molleno, area manager for Private Sector Mobilization for Family Health Project (Prism)-2 said Davao del Norte is the first province in Mindanao to launch the initiatives.

With the creation of the service delivery network, Molleno said the different level of care and services of all the public and private health facilities in the province were verified.

The health referral manual is the protocol by which health frontliners know where to refer clients that need special and advance medical care.

"The community will now know where the facilities are exactly located and what are the specific services available, among other important information," she said.

Provincial health officer Dr. Agapito Hornido said the manual serves as guide for health care providers to ensure effective and efficient delivery of optimum health services, in line with the PEOPLE development strategy of Governor Rodolfo del Rosario.

He added the system ensures that constituents receive the best possible care closest to their homes, considering the economic factors and physical barriers that affect the delivery of health services in the province.

It also helps facilitate the cost-effective use of primary health care services and decongestion of hospitals in the province.

Hornido bared the province first implemented the local referral system in 2003. But it needed to be revised since glitches were noted, particularly with the creation of the municipality of San Isidro in 2004 and the succeeding installation of new local officials and the turnover of health workers in all the LGUs of SIKAT cluster.

USAid-funded Prism-2 provided the technical support, particularly the training facility for the health care providers.