MANILA, Philippines — A group of medical workers on Monday voiced its concern over the slash in the operational budget of almost all public hospitals in the country.
In a statement, the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) said the “Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE)” of public hospitals have been reduced by as much as 50 percent in the proposed national budget of the Department of Health (DoH) for 2011.
While the operational budget for public hospitals has been cut, the 2011 outlay for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has been increased to P34.4 billion from P15.4 billion in 2010 or a 123 percent increase.
“The MOOEs are the operational funds of these hospitals, their very lifeblood,” said Dr. Geneve Rivera, secretary-general of HEAD. “If these are not enough, then the provision of direct health services will be adversely and severely affected. Filipino patients will suffer for this.”
The HEAD official said the MOOE of Culion Sanitarium in Palawan will receive the biggest cut in the budget at P13 million or lower by more than 50 percent. From P25.9-million budget in 2010, it will receive P12.9 million in 2011. Western Visayas Medical Center will also receive a reduction in budget with 42 percent decrease in MOOE or P39 million.
“In Metro Manila, eight of the 12 DoH-retained hospitals have decreased MOOEs in 2011 amounting to a total of P70.8 million. The MOOE of Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, the DoH’s flagship hospital, is reduced by P9.3 million, while that of San Lazaro Hospital, where most infectious cases are taken, is reduced by P6.5 million,” Rivera added.
Dr. Gene Nisperos Alzona, HEAD vice chair, said they based their claims on the proposed budget of DoH for 2011 that is available online.
But “there is no change for hospital budgets," Dr. Yolly Oliveros, DoH head executive assistant insists in a separate interview.
Dr. Nisperos said HEAD has studied the allocations of the proposed 2011 budget that clearly shows the drop in the budget for public hospitals.
“The proposal for the 2011 budget is available online. They said there is no change in the budget of hospitals because they are looking at the total. There are three kinds of budget. One is the capital outlay which is for the infrastructures, the operational budget, and the personnel salaries. If you look at the whole thing, there is no change. But the capital outlay has been removed, the salaries increased only because they are applying the salary standardization scheme. The operational budget is needed because this is where the capacity to give services is dependent… If you look at the total, there seems to be no big change in it… The ‘actual increases’ are covered by ‘deceptive increases,’” he said.
HEAD also noted the increase in the allocation of two hospitals under the Department of National Defense (DND).
It said the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center has an increase of P168.0 million, from P923.5 million in 2010 to P1.091 billion 2011, while the Veterans Memorial Medical Center also has an increase of P130.7 million, up to P820.2 million (2011) from P689.4 million (2010).
“If President Benigno Simeon Aquino III can give such an amount to hospitals under the DND, it should give the same, if not more, to DoH hospitals because these cater to the general public, particularly the poor,” Dr. Rivera said.
In contrast to the DoH proposed budget of P32 billion, HEAD is proposing a P90-billion budget where P40 billion should be allocated for improving the public healthcare delivery system, particularly the state of public hospitals.
“All 12 DoH-retained hospitals should each get P1 billion while the 55 public hospitals nationwide should each get an average of P500 million. These funds will be used to improve and upgrade their equipment, and ensure sufficient medical supplies and medicines in their pharmacies.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Monday questioned the significant cut of allocation for several public hospitals all over the country.
In a public hearing, House minority leader Edcel Lagman asked Health Secretary Enrique Ona to explain the reductions.
Jenny Manongdo, Manila Bulletin