“This hospital has been serving the poor for the past 70 years. If this hospital will be privatized, where will these poor patients go?”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Employees, health workers and patients of Philippine Orthopedic Center once again pressed the government to stop the privatization of the only tertiary hospital in the country that specializes in bone diseases and rehabilitation of bone injuries.
The picket rally was held on Feb. 18 after health workers and patients celebrated a mass to commemorate Ash Wednesday to dramatize their continued struggle against privatization. All employees and patients joined the lunch break protest including POC Medical Center Chief II Dr. Jose Brittanio S. Pujalte, Jr.
“This hospital has been serving the poor for the past 70 years. If this hospital will be privatized, where will these poor patients go? Our future too will become uncertain,” Pujalte said during the program.
Pujalte added that their last statistics showed that 53 percent of the patients are charity patients. “Let us continue this. Let us show acting Department of Health Secretary Janette Garin that we are against the selling of this hospital.”
The POC is the country‘s only hospital specializing in orthopedic disorders such as cases of spinal cord injuries.
It was on Nov. 2013 when President Benigno S. Aquino III approved the privatization of the POC. In December of that same year, the project called the “Modernization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center” was awarded to Megawide Construction Corp. and World Citi Consortium.
On Feb. 3, 2014, the POC employees with other groups filed a Temporary Restraining Order at the Supreme Court. No TRO has been issued up to now.
The POC is one of the seven infrastructure projects under the Public-Private Partnership scheme.
Other PPP infrastructure projects include: LRT Line 1 South extension Project, MRT 7 Project, LRT Line 1 North Extension Project-Common Station, Mactan-Cebu International New Passenger Terminal Project, Mass Transformation System and MWSS Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project.
The Megawide Construction Corp., partly owned by SM tycoon Henry Sy has bagged a contract for one of the two Phase One segments of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) School Infrastructure Projects (PSIP) and the expansion and rehabilitation of the Mactan International Airport.
Sean Herbert Velchez, a nurse and the president of the hospital union said the takeover of the hospital by private corporations such as Megawide Construction and World Citi Hospital is an affront to people’s right to health.
He said that privatization will dramatically increase the cost of health care services because it will be treated as a business for profit not as a government obligation to its citizens.
“In a country where seven out of 10 ill Filipinos die without seeing any medical professional because of poverty, depriving them of quality and affordable to free health care by abdicating its role in favor of the private sector is the single most horrific and frightening act the Aquino government can do to its people,” Velchez said.