Bayan Muna Partylist and Gabriela Women's Partylist groups led a picket in front of the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos yesterday opposing House Bill 6069 authored by Bacolod Rep. Anthony Golez Jr. that would convert government hospitals into corporations.
The picket was staged while a forum/public consultation on the measure was being held by Golez inside the school campus.
House Bill 6069 authored by Golez and (Neg. Occ. 3 rd District) Rep. Alfredo Marañon III, intends to covert public hospitals into national government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC's) and turn them into independent money-making entities responsible for generating their own funding.
Pia Garduce, chief of staff of GWP Rep. Emmi de Jesus, yesterday said there are 26 tertiary hospitals targeted by the bill for “corporatization” in the country and four of these are found in the Visayas.
She said “corporatization” has no other meaning but privatization. In promoting profiteering in health service delivery, the cost of health services will increase, thereby displacing charity patients, she said.
However, Golez said during the public consultation, that privatization and corporatization are not the same. He said he is against the privatization of existing government hospitals.
He said the bill is not anti-poor because if a government hospital is corporatized, health services will be more accessible to the poor.
The hospitals will be allowed to engage in income-generating activities and the income from it can be used to subsidize services for the poor, upgrade facilities and equipment, he said.
Long bureaucratic processes will be cut and the corporatized hospitals will be more responsive to the needs of the people, Golez said.
Maria Lourdes Sanchez, secretary of the Committee on Health of the House of Representatives, said the bill is still under committee deliberation.
Bayan Muna-Negros chairman Alejandro Deoma said that since 2008, the budget of government owned hospitals has been increasing. If government wants to improve the facilities and services of its hospitals, it should increase the budget for these institutions, he said. The government hospital is the only sanctuary left for the poor, he added.
Frances Bondoc, GWP deputy secretary said that for the 2013 proposed national budget, P56.8 billion for health services spells a mere P1.69 for each Filipino per day. Government should increase the budget for health services, she said.
Garduce said that, based on experience in exiting GOCC hospitals, procedures and diagnostic procedures at the Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine Children's Medical Center, and National Kidney and Transplant Institute, are more expensive compared to other public and even private hospitals.
She said “corporatization” will affect health workers' job security, benefits and rights and will deprive indigent patients access to health services.
The aim is for the government to be liberated from the maintenance and other operating expenditures of the hospitals, leaving the responsibility of funding to the hospital themselves, she said.
Rina Amacio, GWP vice president for Visayas, said they are launching a massive campaign against H.B. 6069 of Golez and H.B. 6145 of House Deputy Speaker Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza or an “Act Instituting a Corporate Restructuring Program for National Government Hospitals.”
Rhodora Badayos, chairman of Samakana Urban Poor, said they are one in pushing for the junking of the bill that will only kill Filipinos especially the poor.
Dr. Fresco Yapendon of the Philippine Academy of Medical Specialists said their organization will try to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the bill.
Dr. Robert So of PhilHealth said the Department of Health has set aside about P12 billion for the enrollment of the poorest of the poor in PhilHealth. He said it is the health insurance that will take care of the hospital expenses of its members.
A representative of Association of Health Workers said the bill has no provision that hospital employees will be automatically absorbed.
Golez said there will be no displacement of current employees of hospitals that will be corporatized.
He said health insurance is the most important of all. With health insurance anyone can avail of the services of a private hospital, he said.
“There is no difference between the government and private hospital if you have health insurance,” Golez said. He also said there are no public hospitals in London and the U.S.
EVERYONE NOT ELIGIBLE
Garduce said not all the poor are eligible to become beneficiaries of PhilHealth indigent program subsidized by the government.
Only those who are identified through the National Household Targeting System by the Department of Social Welfare and Development are automatically enrolled in the PhilHealth sponsored program and can avail of the No Balance Billing (NBB), she said.
Golez also claimed that said when government hospitals become government-owned and controlled corporations, they can act on their own and no longer need approval from the DOH.
Also present were Undersecretary Ted Herbosa of the DOH, Councilors El Cid Familiaran, Catalino Alisbo, a representative of Councilor Em Ang, Sum-ag Parish Priest Fr. Aniceto Buenafe, Bayan Muna chairperson Alejandro Deoma, Jewel Mae Lobaton-Pimentel, some barangay captains, students, and other stakeholders.*CGS