SPMC execs say hospital gave P1B to PhilHealth, deserves biggest share in pandemic funds
DAVAO CITY—It is not surprising that the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown got the largest share in the P30-billion Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), at least two top hospital officials said.
Aside from being the largest government hospital in the country, which played a key role in COVID-19 response in Mindanao, SPMC also remained to be the top contributor to PhilHealth’s income, even breaching P1 billion in recent years.
“It’s not surprising that we have that (cash advance) amount because that is based on our historical claim,” said Dr. Ricardo Audan, SPMC officer-in-charge.
“We are the biggest hospital in the country, in fact, SPMC has been considered the mega hospital of the Philippines,” Audan said.
“But the (cash advance) was also performance-based and we have among the highest reimbursement for PhilHealth,” Audan said.
Dr. Leopoldo Vega, who served as SPMC chief for 12 years before his appointment as health undersecretary early this year, said the IRM cash advance was three times the monthly average of the hospital’s PhilHealth reimbursement in the previous year.
“The computation was based on the monthly average (or track record of) the hospital’s PhilHealth reimbursement from the previous year,” he said. “It covered three times the amount,” he told the Inquirer by phone.
He said that in the last two years, SPMC contributed an average of P1.2 billion income a year to PhilHealth, which roughly translated to P113 million a month. “In 2019, the hospital still had unpaid claims of P300 million from PhilHealth,” he added.
“In 2007, we already topped the PhilHealth collection among both public and private hospitals in the country,” said Audan in a separate phone interview.
“In 2015, we reached a billion mark in PhilHealth reimbursement,” he said.
“This is because we adopted an aggressive strategy,” he said.
“For our patients who still did not have PhilHealth coverage, we enrolled them in the point of care system,” he said, referring to a hospital-sponsored program that would automatically grant indigent patients automatic PhilHealth coverage on the first day of admission in the hospital until the end of the year.
“Aside from that, we have been expanding our services to cover heart, kidney, cancer patients,” he added.
Vega said the SPMC played a “very critical role” in COVID-19 response in the region and that part of the cash advance helped them prepare the hospital for that role.
“It already (covers) part of the COVID-19 response,” he said.
He said SPMC was initially the only COVID-19 referral institute in the region while private hospitals were for non-COVID-19 cases. SPMC, though, also continued treating non-COVID patients through its “specialty institutes,” said Audan.
The hospital converted its molecular lab, the first in Mindanao and which was already existing even before the pandemic, into a laboratory for RT-PCR testing.
Aside from its isolation rooms for emerging and reemerging infections, the hospital also allocated 40 ICU beds for critical and severe COVID-19 cases and even converted 220 beds into a COVID-19 facility, freeing private hospitals for non-coronavirus cases.
Since 2015, the 1,500-bed SPMC, which currently employs almost 3,600 people, already stood as the biggest government hospital in the country.
Aside from its main hospital facility, SPMC also has several standalone integrated specialty buildings, which included the Heart Institute, the Cancer Institute, its Intensive Care Complex, among others. In 2019 alone, the hospital admitted 76,586 patients and served 586, 278 outpatients.
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