Lacson questions charging of patients in gov’t hospitals despite billions in ‘retained income’
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday questioned the Department of Health (DOH) on why government hospitals continue to charge patients despite billions of balances from off-budget accounts.
During a Senate hearing on the proposed budget of the DOH, Lacson presented data on off-budget accounts from the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF).
“‘Yung off-budget accounts under the BESF, ang nareflect dito ay ‘yung retained income receipts for the DOH from all its retained hospitals amounting to… P448.439 billion. Ito ‘yung naka-program for 2021 with the following sources, nature of revenues, hospital fees, drugs and medicines, rent, lease, etc.,” said Lacson.
Lacson noted that the retained income receipts for 2021 spiked from P17 billion in 2020. The senator said the increase might be due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in the country this year.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III initially said he was “dumbfounded” by the large amount recorded for 2021 and told his staff to have the figure checked. In the latter part of the hearing, however, Duque said that the “bloated” amount was due to a reporting error.
“Nagkamali po ‘yung Eastern Visayas Medical Center sa kanya pong submission kasi dapat ang ininput niya [is] in the thousands (The Eastern Visayas Medical Center committed an error in its submission because it should have inputted the amount in thousands). So this resulted in a bloated account,” Duque explained.
According to the DOH chief, instead of P448 billion, the figure for 2021 should have only been P21.3 billion. He assured that the DOH will coordinate with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to correct the data.
“But your honors, let me just reassure [you] that we are committed to [reviewing] use of hospital income and this commitment stands because and laki po ng amount (the amount is huge). The amount is just too big to ignore,” he assured.
Lacson, at the earlier part of the hearing, said he finds it “cruel” for government hospitals to still charge patients despite these figures.
“It does not make sense to me na hindi niyo nga nagagastos ‘yung (that you are not spending the) off-budget accounts and yet we are still punishing our patients by collecting or billing them especially during COVID na ang daming nawalan ng trabaho (when many people lost jobs)… I find it rather cruel for government hospitals to be charging patients when in fact ‘yung off-budget accounts niyo lang, napakalaki ng natitira (many are left from your off-budget accounts),” he added.
“Lagi kayong may sumosobra year in, year out. ‘Yung yearend balance ninyo laging may nakaindicate na billion. But why would we still charge patients at a time of pandemic ng kanilang hospitalization fees? Hindi ba dapat at least magcancel out ‘yung kinikita ng DOH, medyo ipasa naman natin to cushion ‘yung paghihirap ng mga kababayan natin na nakoconfine sa mga hospital? said Lacson.
(You always have a balance year in and year out. Your year-end balance is always at a billion. But why would we still charge patients of their hospitalization fees at a time of pandemic? Should you not cancel out some fees considering the earnings of the DOH so we can cushion the suffering of patients confined in hospitals?)
“Parang there is something wrong with the management of government hospitals. Kumikita naman, bakit nagchacharge pa rin tayo tapos hindi nagagamit?,” he further said.
(It seems there is something wrong with the management of government hospitals. They are earning. Why are they charging patients then we don’t use the money?)
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