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Cut-down health budget cripples hospitals, people

/ 12:14 AM September 30, 2016

The Alliance of Health Workers, together with its allied hospitals, condemns the proposed 2017 health budget which is antipoor and deceptive.

The 2017 health budget is crippling both public hospitals and the people. This is because the main budget for the direct services of those hospitals has been significantly cut down.

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Last year’s MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) of the Department of Health amounted to P74.4 billion; this year it is only P38 billion—almost 50 percent smaller compared to last year’s budget.

The 72 public hospitals’ MOOE for 2016 is P5.2 billion; it will only be P3.67 billion in 2017 or P1.53 billion less. The MOOE for 2015 catered to more than 20 million charity patients. With the 2017 budget, poor patients will be dissuaded to go to public hospitals.

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The people have long been clamoring for free and comprehensive healthcare; instead the government decreased the budget for the direct services, essentially the hospitals’ budget. The DOH-issued Philippine Health Agenda 2016-2022 indicates that three of the DOH hospitals are going to be transformed into “mega-hospitals.” This does not show in the P2.5-billion reduction made on the capital outlay for hospitals.

Intensive government funding is needed, and proper allocation must be considered in order to properly address the worsening health situation in the country. In order to achieve the DOH’s “All for Health Towards Health for All” agenda, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial must first address the basic needs of the people. The agenda does not suggest free healthcare for Filipino citizens; instead it gives the responsibility of providing healthcare to PhilHealth because the DOH does not fund government hospitals and only relies on PhilHealth to cover hospital expenses.

We urge the government to take up its responsibility of providing free and quality healthcare. This can be done by first allocating a higher budget for health. There must be a concrete figure when it comes to the health budget.

Funds from the PCSO, sin taxes or Pagcor may act as an additional budget, but there should be a primary budget allocated by the government for health. This budget should not be allocated to PhilHealth but for direct services. This includes, but is not limited to, free medicines, hospital materials like cotton balls and diagnostic and laboratory fees. Without a budget for these services, out-of-pocket spending will increase, and we all know that these have a great impact on patient care as many Filipinos can barely go to hospitals because of high fees.

We call on all legislators to increase the MOOE in the health budget, as well as the capital outlay and personnel services for all government hospitals. It is not yet late to address this issue.

—ROBERT T. MENDOZA, national president, Alliance of Health Workers

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TAGS: 2017 health budget, antipoor
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