Hontiveros questions P2-B budget cuts in over 30 gov’t hospitals
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros flagged Thursday the P2.04 billion budget cuts in the operations of over 30 public hospitals as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Hontiveros pointed out that the allocation for the 33 hospitals is crucial for government hospitals to cover the costs of regular operations including utilities, medicine, diagnostic procedures, IV fluids, and other expenses essential to patient care.
“Billions worth of cuts in the middle of a pandemic means we drastically slashed the capacity of government hospitals to provide services and medicines for free,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Dahil dito, aakyat pa ang out-of-pocket expenses ng mga tao (Because of this, the out-of-pocket expenses of the public will rise). This is grossly anti-poor and anti-people,” she added.
The senator lamented that the lower funding for the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of the hospitals will mean that their income, which could have been used for the procurement of more hospital beds and equipment, will now be diverted to compensate for the budget cuts.
Hontiveros said the top three hospitals that suffered the biggest budget cuts were major COVID-19 referral centers in cities that have the highest number of cases in their respective regions.
These are the Quirino Memorial Medical Center (QMMC) in Quezon City which suffered a funding cut of P305.48 million, the Southern Philippines Medical Centre in Davao with a P305.48 million budget slash, and the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Hospital in Bacolod City which was also denied P242.19 million.
The QMMC, Hontiveros said, is currently at ‘warning level’ status at 67.2 percent bed occupancy while the Southern Philippines Medical Center is currently at full capacity for COVID-19 patients, and is filled at 97 percent general ward occupancy.
“Most of these hospitals are in emerging, if not current, hotspot areas. Shouldn’t common sense tell us that when the threat is rising, we provide reinforcement? We don’t know when this pandemic will end, so our hospitals have to be ever-ready to deal with the influx of patients,” she said.
“Sa pinakamalalang health emergency na ito (In this health emergency), we have no choice but to give these hospitals what they need. The consequences could prove fatal. Many might die because they were refused care when they needed it the most. This can be prevented if we channel funds wisely,” she said,
Hontiveros also pointed out that the budget for the Prevention and Control of Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases was also refused a “massive” P10 billion.
“Pinilay nga natin ang pondo para sa prevention, pipilayin pa natin lalo yung budget para sa pagpapagamot,” Hontiveros said.
As of October 21, there are 362,243 COVID-19 cases in the country, with the recoveries at 311,506 and death toll at 6,747.
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