In 2010, employees supported Dr. Jose Gonzales when he was unceremoniously removed as director of the Phil. General Hospital by the UP president. Now, they are calling for his ouster.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Employees of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) are calling for the ouster of its director, Dr. Jose Gonzales for tampering with the distribution of their benefits and privatizing certain hospital services. The employees called Gonzales “the worst PGH director.”
On Monday, Nov. 3, the employees symbolically padlocked Gonzales’ office inside the PGH as they intensified their call for his ouster. They also covered UP Manila’s Oblation statue with a black cloth right after the flag ceremony.
The call has been going on from Oct. 13 up to Oct. 31, and joined by hundreds of UP-PGH employees by the All UP Workers Union (AUPWU). They held a daily lunch break protest, from 12 noon to 1 p.m., conducting a picket and noise barrage at the hospital’s main lobby and in front of Gonzales’s office, to signify their demand for him to step down.
Eliseo Estropigan, president of the AUPWU, said that they, along with the whole UP community, supported Gonzales when he was removed as PGH director by then UP President Emerlinda Roman, a month after he was sworn into office in 2010. He was reinstated following a Quezon City court order.
However, after two years, Gonzales began to show his “true color.”
“Not only has he denied us of our benefits, he’s also belittling health workers, and most of all, he has been privatizing health services, which are provided by PGH for free,” Estropigan said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
Employees also slammed Gonzales for putting on hold the P21 million-worth of PhilHealth share for the employees, nurses, resident and fellow doctors and consultants that he intends to use as seed money for his proposed Health Insurance project.
Estropigan said in 2012, Gonzales proposed that the PhilHealth share of the employees as well as nurses, residents and fellow doctors and consultants in PGH be used for health insurance whose beneficiaries will be the UP-PGH and UP-Manila employees.
The employees, especially those from the rank and file, did not agree to the proposal as they have been receiving the PhilHealth share in cash and is equally distributed to the employees, nurses, doctors, fellow doctors and consultants. For example, Estropigan explained, if the PhilHealth share this year will be worth P10,000 ($177), each employee, nurse, doctor, fellow doctor and consultant will also get the same amount.
PhilHealth share comes from the payments of member-patients who avail of services in PhilHealth-accredited hospitals.
PhilHealth shares received by employees is provided for by Section 44 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the National Health Insurance Act: “All payments for the professional services rendered by salaried public providers shall be retained by the health facility in which services are rendered and be pooled and distributed among health personnel.”
Benjie Santos, public relations officer of the AUPWU, explained that “salaried public providers” refer to those who are employed by the hospital, health workers and rank-and-file employees.
Estropigan said employees are already entitled to a financial assistance for hospitalization expenses (FAHPE) and that they are also entitled to a discount in their hospitalization in PGH. They can also avail of PhilHealth in case of their hospitalization, or for their families.
For Estropigan, there is no need for another health insurance, which leads them to suspect that Gonzales’ proposed health insurance is only for business. “We don’t know if he will rake in profits from this or he has hidden agenda on this project,” Estropigan said.
On Oct. 30, the employees, nurses, doctors, fellow doctors and consultants have received their respective PhilHealth share, but it was not distributed equally, contrary to what was previously implemented by past PGH directors.
The PhilHealth share was distributed as follows: for Non-medical employees (which included nurses) – P10,750 ($239) each; Fellows – P48,000 ($1068); Medical staff- P29,000 ($645).
The AUPWU condemned the unequal distribution, saying that Gonzales has divided the PGH employees, nurses and doctors.
“We call on director Gonzales to distribute the P19,000 ($423) worth of PhilHealth share to every salaried-health provider in UP-PGH as an expression of implementing the ‘equal individual sharing’ policy in releasing the PhilHealth Share Fund (PSF). This policy has been implemented since 2009,” Estropigan said.
He added that instead of implementing a new health insurance scheme, their union is pushing for the implementation of Section 27 of the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers or Republic Act 7305 on Medical Examination that states: “Where medical examination shows that medical treatment and/or hospitalization is necessary for those already in government service, the treatment/hospitalization including medicines shall be provided free (either in a government or a private hospital) by the government entity paying the salary of the public health workers.”
Employees also complained of Gonzales’ rudeness against the employees. Nurses are professional health workers, but Gonzales identifies them as non-medical employees. This has earned him the ire of the nurses in PGH, said Estropigan.
Gonzales also ridiculed nurses during a flag ceremony. Estropigan recalled: “At the flag ceremony, he said, ‘You have consumed all your FAHPE because you are always giving birth, because you’re all so horny.” Although he did not name a particular person, a nurse got hurt and cried because she knew that Gonzales was referring to her.”
Nursing aids or assistants are also being debased by Gonzales who called them “uneducated.”.
“It also came to a point when he did not face us in a dialogue because he said we are not the recognized union here in UP-PGH, which is not true,” Estropigan said.
Under Gonzales, PGH now charges for laboratory tests, which used to be free to indigent patients.
“Before Gonzales, we can say that the PGH was the ‘Ospital ng Bayan’ (Hospital for the People) primarily because of quality but free services that we provide to our people, especially to those classified as indigents. But now, we can no longer say it with pride, considering that even Class D or indigent patients are forced to pay-up first before diagnostic examinations are made,” said Santos.
“Many of us have stayed and were eventually promoted to higher positions in the hospital because of our desire to help the people both as our work and advocacy,” said Rita Sevilla, treasurer of AUPWU and Chief Nurse of PGH Central Intensive Care Unit.
“But, now almost everything, even the use of life-saving equipment like ventilators, have to be entirely paid for by our patients, most of whom can barely afford their daily needs, we ask ourselves: Are we really helping our patients, or are we like leeches sucking them dry, up to their last breath?”