HOUSE BUDGET HEARING DoH ‘skewed’ priority hit

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 10:47:00 10/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines –As the House of Representatives deliberates on the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DoH) this Friday, a militant lawmaker criticized its “skewed” priority, which he said prioritized foreign patients.

Deputy Minority Floor Leader and Bayan Muna partylist Representative Satur Ocampo said the DoH budget showed a “skewed investment in government-sponsored medical tourism that targets foreign patients instead of millions of Filipinos who do not have access to quality government health care.”

“The DoH should explain government’s health priorities. They should tell Congress why healthcare is apparently being transformed by government into a money-making venture targeting foreign medical tourists over ordinary Filipinos in dire need of health care,” Ocampo said in a statement.

The DoH has a proposed P27.803 billion allocation for 2009.

Citing a study of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), Ocampo lamented that “past and current national health budgets under the Health Facilities Enhancement Program have not changed the general state of disrepair and lack of adequate facilities in public hospitals and government-run health facilities.”

The program got P1.66 billion in 2008 – a whopping 822% increase from its 2007 P180 million allotment.

For 2009, the program will be getting P2.03 billion or a 22.29% increase, the lawmaker said.

“This Health Facilities Enhancement Program only aims to refurbish certain specialty hospitals for the government’s medical tourism agenda. It has the highest appropriation compared to the potable water program (P1.5 billion) and the Tuberculosis Control Program (P1.3 billion) that will go directly to indigent Filipino patients,” he added.

The HEAD study also noted that the 2009 national budget would only give substantial increases to specialty hospitals like the Lung Center of the Philippines (an additional P157.6 million), National Kidney and Transplant Institute (P185 million), Philippine Children’s Medical Center (P236 million), and Philippine Heart Center (P185 million).

Ocampo said the DoH flagship hospital, the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center in Manila, is only getting P359 million in the 2009 budget. It is much worse for other public hospitals under the DoH, he added.

“Our government doctors and health professionals in HEAD aver that these are the same hospitals earmarked for integration as the ‘Philippine Center for Specialized Healthcare’ in line with the medical tourism program. If the Arroyo administration allocates hefty amounts to specialty hospitals, I do not see any reason why it should not give equal or greater budgets for government medical centers that cater to the general public and indigent Filipino patients,” Ocampo said.

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