It is bad enough that a public hospital in Negros has become profit oriented, much to the consternation of its poor patients. What proves to be worse is that its workers are deprived of legally mandated benefits despite the hospital’s income and congressional support.
BY KARL G. OMBION
BACOLOD CITY – Workers at the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH) denounced what they describe as “the collapse” of the hospital’s public services.
They also want their hospital chief Dr. Domingo Vega and other officials investigated for financial mismanagement. According to them, the mismanagement of the hospital’s funds is affecting not only them but also the thousands of poor patients.
William Dueno, spokesperson of the CLMMRH Concerned Health Workers (CLMMRH CHW), said that based on the hospital’s 2005 financial records, Vega got an allocation of P123,541,162 ($2,527,507.82, based on an exchange rate of P48.84 per US dollar) under the General Appropriations Act No. 9336.
Dueno said that the CLMMRH earned P36,445,578 ($746,223.96) from hospital operations that same year, as well as P10,044,397 ($205,659.23) from medicine sales. These, he added, did not even include millions of pesos from the people’s development assistance funds (PDAFs) of Reps. Monico Puentevella, Jose Carlos Lacson, Crispin Beltran, Siegfred Deduro, and Renato Magtubo.
Despite the hospital’s income and congressional support, Dueno described the quality of the hospital’s services as “a disaster.” For example, Dueno said that the hospital pharmacy often has no supply of medicines and that laboratory services are sometimes unavailable.
Because of these, he explained, most poor patients are forced to go elsewhere even if they are PhilHealth cardholders. He said that charity patients are obliged to pay or give token “donations” even if they are covered by Social Welfare Assistance, or by the PDAFs of lawmakers.
He cited some cases where poor patients die due to lack of medical care and laboratory services, delayed medicines and misdiagnosis.
Dueno said that some buildings in the hospital remain unfinished while others like the laboratory are without equipment.
He also assailed Vega for frequently refusing to hire hospital staff even if there are many vacancies. “Yet every time other people he personally knew or were recommended by his friends would seek employment, even if contractual or temporary, he would easily accede to them.”
Dueno said that they also demand the immediate relief or reassignment of hospital budget officer Esther Jara who allegedly suffers from glaucoma. “We cannot understand why Vega appointed and maintains Jara when it is apparent that she is unfit for the job.”
Dueno said that Vega’s usual excuse of “lack of budget and savings” is baseless. “Aside from its huge yearly budget appropriation, the hospital is earning much from its services because it has already become a profit-oriented corporate agency where every service to patient has a corresponding price.”
He asked, “With all the funds, how come hospital employees’ conditions and services to patients have not improved? How come our P10,000 ($204.75) enhancement benefit and other benefits are not given to us? Where have all the funds gone?”
In December 2006, the CLMMRH CHW staged a protest to demand the release of unpaid basic benefits, including the P10,000 ($204.75) enhancement benefit as mandated by the Department of Health (DoH) Order No. 2006-0067 dated December 14.
Dueno said that the order titled “DOH Work Enhancement Benefit” provides that each official and employee – regardless of salary and appointment status – shall be given P10,000 ($204.75) each which shall be chargeable to savings from released allotments of continuing and current appropriations to the institution. The order provides that the payment shall be released in two installments: P5,000 ($102.38) on or before Dec. 22, and the balance on or before Dec. 29.
“The order is clear but we did not receive any payment last December 22, and there is no certainty that they will give us what is due to us because they keep on saying that the hospital does not have enough savings,” Dueno said.
In a statement, the hospital workers said, “This is a public service hospital not a hacienda; don’t treat us like sacadas (seasonal farm workers) because we also need care and support to live a decent and humane life.”
In an interview with reporters, Vega denied allegations that they have no intention of releasing the said benefit. “We are complying with the order. It is just that we are still pooling whatever savings we could generate, and in the spirit of sharing during this Christmas,” he said.
Vega said that he also sought the assistance of the regional and central offices of DoH but the latter refused to intervene.
Vega later ordered the partial release of P8,000 ($163.80) for the first installment and the remaining P2,000 ($40.95) to be released later. He however added that this benefit must be taxed.
Nerissa Pabienia, a regular employee, slammed what she described as Vega’s vacillation. “Had we not discovered the order and (were it not for) the pressure we exerted, they would just ignore it.”
She also hit Vega’s contention that the hospital does not have enough savings. “That is impossible; the hospital has already been serving like a private hospital where nothing is free anymore, so where have all the income gone, and what happens now to our other unpaid basic benefits such as longevity pay, night differentials and medical benefits?”
There are Savings
DoH Region VI Assistant Regional Director Dr. Ed Gonzaga said that he does not know the hospital’s financial status because his office has yet to receive its yearend financial report. He, however, said that there are several ways for the hospital to generate the funds to comply with the order. Among them, he said, are savings from unfilled positions, income of the hospital and its own general fund.
Even the chief accountant of the CLMMRH was quoted as saying, “There are many ways to source the funds for the enhancement benefit. It just depends on the chief of the hospital.”
Tip of the Iceberg
Dueno said that the case of their unreleased P10,000 ($204.75) enhancement benefit is only the tip of the iceberg. He and his group urged the DoH national and regional officials to investigate Vega and to attend to the plight of the employees and the patients. (Bulatlat.com)