By CONG B. CORRALES
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Opposition to a proposed law, aimed at turning public hospitals into government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) has snowballed, here. This, despite its proponents’ claim that the bill would boost public health care.
Entitled, “An Act Converting Government Hospitals into National Government Corporation, Providing Funds Therefore and Other Purpose,” HB 6069 authored by Bacolod City Rep. Anthony Golez and SB 3130 authored by Sen. Franklin Drilon, have been widely criticized because, people’s organizations said, will make public health care more inaccessible to marginalized Filipinos.
Earlier this month, local people’s organizations under the Network Opposed to Privatization (NOP) held a picket rally in front of the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) to show their resistance against the proposed act. NMMC is a tertiary regional government hospital here.
Vice Mayor Caesar Ian Acenas, in a text message, enjoined members of Congress not to be too hasty in passing HB 6069 and SB 3130 into law.
“I still have to (study) the details of the proposed (law). But if the purpose is for profit only, our legislators should think twice,” said Acenas.
“I still maintain my stand that public hospitals in the Philippines (are) for services, especially for the needy and indigents,” he added.
Department of Health (DOH 10) spokesperson Emiliano Galban concurs with Acenas’ stand that government hospitals are supposed to be for public health care service and not for revenue generation.
“Can they guarantee that when this bill is passed into law, there will be no hike in the cost of services and of the medical professionals’ fees?” Galban rhetorically asked.
In an interview over the internet, Monday evening, Gene Nisperos, MD, national vice chair of the Health Alliance for Democracy (Head) said that privatization by any other name spells more suffering for the people.
“The two bills are explicit in their statement on the rationale behind corporatization—fiscal autonomy, revenue-generating activities and public-private partnerships (PPP). The context of corporatization is the national government’s refusal to provide adequate funds for health care,” he said.
Gabriela Women’s Party regional coordinator Rhodora Bulosan, said in a phone interview, Tuesday, that the proposed law will make NMMC even more inaccessible to the people.
“They may call it whatever they like but in essence, the law is corporatization of public hospitals and is really geared towards the privatization of government hospitals—including NMMC,” said Bulosan.
“A private investor, who will shell-out capitalization to augment medical equipment of public hospitals, would always aim to earn their profit or the return of their investment (ROI) the soonest time possible. Who will benefit from the 10 units of Dialysis Machines in NMMC if it will be privatized,” she added.
Bulosan posited that it is bad enough that regular check-ups in the Out Patient Department at NMMC are not free of charge anymore. “This law will make NMMC even more inaccessible to the public,” she remarked.
“Presently, the poor expectant mothers in the region have reported that is has become increasingly difficult for them to access to free maternal delivery at the charity ward of NMMC. You have to pay before a doctor could attend to you,” said Bulosan.
She further claimed that laboratory test fees at NMMC have increased since “about 90 per cent of the laboratory equipment at NMMC is already privately-owned.”
“In essence, corporatization of DOH-retained hospitals is all about money. It is about the national government giving less—not more—money for health, even when this has run contrary to social imperatives, in particular,” Nisperos posited.
“At the bottom of this is the lie that has been repeated as justification of past and present administrations for giving the health sector such a low budget: ‘the government has no money.’ In fact, what the Aquino administration has is (the absence of) political will,” he added.