For Ona’s ouster, against privatization of gov’t hospitals | Inquirer Opinion
Letters to the Editor

For Ona’s ouster, against privatization of gov’t hospitals

/ 05:35 AM December 22, 2014

This is in reaction to the news report titled “Leaving for good? Quietly, Ona starts packing” (Second Front Page, 12/16/14).

We are cautiously monitoring developments inside the Department of Health with regard to the changing of the guard.

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Even before the pneumonia vaccine scandal broke out, we had been holding pickets and rallies for the removal of Dr. Enrique Ona and Dr. Teodoro Herbosa from the DOH. We are against their policy of privatizing public hospitals like the Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC) through corporatization or public-private partnership (PPP).

The POC is the Philippines’ only hospital specializing in the treatment of orthopedic ailments. It houses Asia’s largest spinal injury ward. It currently has a capacity of 700 beds, with at least 85 percent allotted for indigent patients.

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A privatized POC will allot only 70 beds of its current bed capacity to service (indigent) patients, while 60 percent will be for PhilHealth patients. The rest will be for fully paying private patients.

Toward the end of 2013, through the current administration’s PPP policy, Megawide-World Citi Consortium was able to win a P5.6-billion concession agreement. Under the agreement, it will be able to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the POC for 25 years, after which the agreement may be renewed for another 25 years.

We believe that healthcare is a public good and should be provided for by the state. With privatization, hospital charges usually increase to make up for the initial capital invested by private institutions. The POC caters both to indigent patients—farmers, fisherfolk—who come a long way from their provinces and to patients who come from urban poor communities in Metro Manila. Very many patients who need healthcare the most do not have the capacity to pay the cost of hospitalization.

The uglier side of this is that 71 other public hospitals or almost all DOH-controlled health facilities nationwide will be auctioned off under the PPP using the POC as a model. Ona himself said this.

It will be a small reprieve if the “ideologues of hospital privatization” are weeded out of the DOH. We will therefore remain vigilant, ever mindful that privatization is a state policy imposed by international financial institutions like the IMF-World Bank and will definitely outlive the tenure of their disciples and advocates in the Philippine government.

It is incumbent upon us therefore to continue the struggle against our own government’s abandonment of its obligation to provide healthcare for our people by allowing the corporate takeover of our public hospitals.

We urge our fellow health workers and our kababayan to fight for our right to health.

—SEAN HERBERT VELCHEZ, RN,
president, National Orthopedic Hospital Workers Union-AHW,
Philippine Orthopedic Center,
Maria Clara, Quezon City

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TAGS: Department of Health, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Public-Private Partnership (PPP)
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