“We should not keep silent on this issue (of privatization) because it is the people’s right.” – Dr. Eleonor Jara, convenor of No to Privatization of Public Hospitals.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – In solidarity with women’s month, health workers and families from different communities in Manila and Quezon City trooped to the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, Thursday, March 6, to once again reiterate their opposition to the privatization of the maternity hospital in Manila.
“Fabella is the only state-run maternity hospital in the Manila that caters to the poor. If this will be privatized, then our poor mothers will be greatly affected,” said Jossel Ebesate, president of the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW).
Fabella Hospital was bid out last June 2013. Private company J.D. Legaspi Construction (JDLC) has won the said bidding in the amount of P743 million ($16.6 million). Earlier reports said the Fabella Hospital that would have 400 beds and would be transferred to the compound of the Department of Health (DOH) in Sta. Cruz, Manila. The Fabella Hospital is presently located at Rizal street and has 700 beds.
But last month, according to a report, the bidding was cancelled. The report said Health Secretary Enrique Ona ordered the cancellation of the bidding after the DOH was told that the approval of the Investment Coordination Committee of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) was needed for projects that cost more than P1 billion ($22 million).
But, health workers said, they would not be complacent and that more protest actions would be held to oppose the privatization of public hospitals.
The Philippine Orthopedic Center modernization project under the PPP was awarded last year, Dec. 6 to the consortium of Megawide Construction Corp. and World Citi Inc. Health workers, with the concerned cause-oriented groups, filed a petition for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) with the Supreme Court on Feb. 3.
“Both Fabella Hospital and POC provide essential public health services to poor patients. Privatizing these public hospitals practically deprives the poor of public health services from womb to bone,” Ebesate stressed.
Ebesate pointed out that the case filed before the high court is a crucial battle, especially with the government’s plan to privatize 72 DOH-retained public hospitals nationwide.
He added that without the SC’s prohibition against the modernization project of the POC, the privatization of other public hospitals and public health services will continue at the expense of the poor patients.
They later held a caravan, together with the Philippine Nursing Association (PNA) the largest nursing organization in the country, going to the SC. The groups have held protest actions in front of the SC since Mar. 3. They also held vigil last Feb. 27 and 28 at the SC.
Gloria Almariego, registered nurse and member of the PNA Board of Governors, NCR, Zone 1 said they support the call against the privatization of government hospitals. “We are here today to knock on the door of the SC to stop the privatization of POC. We know and we have witnessed the sacrifices of poor patients because many of them could not really afford expensive medication,” she said in a short program in front the SC.
“The only solution to the deteriorating health facilities and services is to increase the budget for health. The government should have done it before if they are really sincere in its intention to modernize and improve health care in the country,” she added.
Dr. Geneve Rivera-Reyes, secretary general of Health Alliance for Democracy said the poor never benefited in the long history of privatization in the country.
She said under past administrations services such as electricity, water and transportation were all privatized. “Only private investors are benefiting from the money that we pay for these services that should be given free by the government,” she said. She added that privatized utilities have only resulted to incessant increases of rates.
“We should not be swayed by arguments that the poor will benefit through privatization, which they are now calling as corporatization. Whatever term they use, it’s only objective is to rake profits from the people,” she said.
“We should not keep silent on this issue (of privatization) because health is a people’s right. It is provided for in the Constitution that the state shall provide affordable health services to the people. We are only fighting for our legitimate right,” said Dr. Eleonor Jara, convenor of No to Privatization of Public Hospitals.