Red Cross stops testing over PhilHealth debt
The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has stopped conducting COVID-19 tests for the government after the Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) has failed to pay the P930 million it owed for past tests.
The PRC, led by its chair Sen. Richard Gordon, said it will complete the testing of specimens submitted up to 11:59 p.m. on Thursday.
After that, the PRC will no longer conduct tests on arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), passengers in airports and seaports, individuals asking for COVID-19 tests in government swabbing facilities, front-line health and government workers, and others included in the expanded testing guidelines of the Department of Health (DOH). “This will remain until the overdue balance of P930,993,000 is paid by PhilHealth,” the PRC said in a statement on Thursday.
The PRC said it had conducted 1 million COVID-19 tests as of Oct. 6, or about a quarter of the national test output.As of Oct. 13, it has billed PhilHealth P1,014,975,500, but P930,993,000 remains unpaid.
The PRC’s COVID-19 test fee is P3,500, which is chargeable to Philhealth.
The PRC said it would continue to test individuals who booked through its hotline; those from private companies and organizations; and those endorsed by local government units and other government agencies whose payments are up to date.
It said it procures test kits and reagents from China, with each order requiring $6 million. The PRC also operates 21 molecular laboratories capable of testing 42,000 tests per day, with plans to expand. It also has 300 medical technologists, swabbers, encoders and pathologists for its 24/7 operations.
P100M revolving fund
Under their memorandum of agreement, PhilHealth was supposed to provide a revolving fund of P100 million to reimburse the PRC for “priority tests requested by various government agencies.”
“PhilHealth never replenished this revolving fund. In fact, it is now PRC advancing its funds for testing services as a result of the nonpayment of PhilHealth,” the PRC said.
PhilHealth’s last payment was made on Sept. 8, which was a week before the task force created by President Duterte submitted its initial report implicating top PhilHealth officials in fund anomalies in the state insurer.
The PRC said newly appointed PhilHealth president and CEO Dante Gierran had assured Gordon that PhilHealth would pay its obligation but asked the PRC to reduce its test fee from P3,500 to P3,409, which the senator agreed to.
The PRC said Gierran’s written request was received on Oct. 6 without mention of payment.In a statement, the DOH said it would continue to talk to the PRC to “resolve issues,” but in the meantime tasked eight hospitals to take on the testing requirement of OFWs and other returning Filipinos.
The eight hospitals are: Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital; Las Piñas General Hospital and Satellite Trauma Center; Lung Center of the Philippines; PNP Crime Laboratory; Research Institute for Tropical Medicine; San Lazaro Hospital; Ospital ng Imus; and Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) on Thursday assured the that swabbing on returning overseas workers at the country’s premier airport continues despite a stoppage of the tests for COVID-19 infection by the PRC.
In a text message to the Inquirer, MIAA public affairs department officer in charge Ma. Consuelo Bungag said the Philippine Coast Guard was conducting the swab tests on returning OFWs at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and not the PRC.
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