They may have stopped the privatization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center, but the fight is not yet over.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — The employees and health workers and professionals are jubilant with the termination of the modernization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center (MPOC) under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) program. However, they call on everyone to remain vigilant as the PPP Center is still not giving up.
According to a report, PPP Center Cosette Canilao said they are preparing a memorandum to President Aquino and the economic managers on remedies available to the government following the termination of the MPOC.
In a thanksgiving program on Nov. 25, Wednesday, Sean Velchez, president of the POC employees’ union, slammed another attempt to privatize the POC, in the guise of modernization of “the hospital of the poor.”
That day, the POC celebrated their victory and thanked all organizations that helped in their fight against the POC modernization project. They also shared pancit (noodles) with the patients. “Without them, maybe we are still holding die-in protests,” said Velchez.
Patients also rejoiced over the news. Jordan Cajote, 38, who survived a vehicle accident, said hospitals that are free or at least remain accessible to the poor is a big help. “Life is very difficult and jobs are scarce. Without an income, how can we go see a doctor or seek medical assistance when services become expensive?” he told Bulatlat.com in an interview.
Florinda Villanueva, 45, whose 10-year-old son, CJ, said they came to POC because they knew that its services are affordable. Privatizing the hospital, she said, would mean death to them. Her son needs an operation for his fractured arm. She is seeking help from local politicians but she is not getting enough money for the operation which cost P21,000 ($446). She is only thankful that consultation in POC is free and laboratory tests remain affordable.
Both Cajote and Villanueva do not have regular jobs.
POC, hospital of the poor
POC Medical Center Chief II Dr. Jose Brittanio S. Pujalte, Jr. meanwhile congratulated the whole POC community for their victory. “Siguro naman yung susunod na magtangkang guluhin uli yung hospital natin ay magdadalawang isip na (Maybe next time, they will think twice before bothering us again),” said Pujalte.
He vowed to remain true to his earlier statement that like a captain of a sinking ship, he will not leave them behind. He said the POC will remain a hospital of the poor.
Soledad Veloria, head of the research department of the POC cautioned the POC community to remain vigilant. She told co-workers not to be fooled by politicians who are running for national office. All regimes, she said, had pushed for the corporatization and privatization of all government hospitals.
“We should vote for candidates who are really concerned about the plight of the poor and the condition of the health system in our country. What is the use of modernizing hospitals if it cannot be accessed by the poor?” she said.
Velchez also said that health issues are only discussed during election season, but no one gave a real solution.
“The government has not really given attention to the problems plaguing the health care delivery system in the Philippines. Former Health Secretary Enrique Ona said it himself, that there is no improvement in government hospitals for decades,” said Velchez, adding that government is instead turning over health services to private companies who will only make profit.
“This is abandonment of government responsibility to the people,” said Velchez.
Velchez commended the steadfastness of POC employees and health workers, despite the previous administration’s harassment against those who joined protests.
Robert Mendoza, Alliance of Health Workers president said their collective action is proof that any move of the government to privatize public hospitals will not succeed. “The Quezon Institute and the National Center of Mental Health remained government hospitals because of the dissent from the employees and their patients,” said Mendoza.
He also said that the fight against privatization continues because there are other government hospitals up for privatization. The Trimedical Complex project that will modernize and integrate three medical centers proposed to be located at the Tayuman Compound of the Department of Health is also underway.
The Trimedical Complex includes Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital (maternity and childcare hospital), Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (general hospital specializing in surgery and internal medicine) and the San Lazaro Hospital (infectious disease control hospital).
Velchez also commended groups who did not leave them and helped them in amplifying their issue. “They may be perceived as Leftists but they are the ones who are with us in our protests and never got tired of mobilizing to make our calls even louder,” said Velchez.
Velchez said their struggle continues for a better health system that is publicly run and publicly funded. “The fact still remains that seven out 10 patients die without seeing a doctor and many patients die of common diseases,” he said.