Makati Med gives government hospital big shot in arm

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that the national government had insufficient funds to finance the modernization of public hospitals.

The dream has begun.

In a ceremony Tuesday at state-run Rizal Medical Center, its officials and those of Makati Medical Center (MMC) Foundation launched a program aimed at transforming the Pasig City hospital into a facility as good as a private hospital.


To outsiders, RMC today may look not much more than a three-story hospital with a 300-bed capacity run by over 600 government doctors, nurses and staff.

But change is coming in the next couple of years, officials said—perhaps in the way the 70-year-old hospital handles its customers, how it manages its shoestring budget and how it fulfills its needs without banking on doles from other institutions.


This is envisaged under a “first of its kind” private-public partnership program (PPP) initiated by the MMC Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of privately owned Makati Medical Center.

The program is intended to help struggling government hospitals by bolstering their organizational strength. Its launch coincided with the 151st birthday of national hero Jose Rizal.

The launch, marked by the signing of a memorandum of agreement, was attended by Health Secretary Enrique Ona, MMC Foundation chairman Manuel Pangilinan and RMC medical director Relito Saquilayan,  among other officials.

“We’re not here to take over and we don’t want the (hospital staff) to  fear that they may be taken out because we are not here for that,” Conchitina Sevilla-Bernardo, president of MMC Foundation, said in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

In shambles

Ona said in his speech that the national government had insufficient funds to finance the modernization of public hospitals.

“The national hospital system is in shambles. And the reason for that is because there’s so little funds allocated for our health facilities,” Ona told doctors, nurses and other RMC personnel.


He said RMC was the first hospital to partner with the private sector in a pilot project that would soon be done in other public hospitals nationwide.

“We all know very well that modernization requires a tremendous amount of money and the private-public partnership program is one way to do it,” he said.

No need to fear

Ona advised hospital employees not to be afraid of the private sector.

“I assure you that hospital employees will not lose their jobs or their security of tenure … This project cannot fail. There is no possibility of failure,” he said.

Under the P1.5-million program, the hospital staff will be trained in being resourceful, particularly in upgrading equipment without relying on doles, and taught to manage the hospital in a “quasi-corporate manner,” Bernardo said.

Management skills, not money, will be provided.  “There is a saying that you teach a man to fish, you don’t give him  fish,” Bernardo said.

“We want to teach them to be resourceful enough to get funding in a way that they are not begging because begging takes the dignity away. We don’t like that because they are very good and are professional doctors,” she said.

Strategic location

Under the plan—which is also in support of President Benigno Aquino’s flagship PPP program—administrators, department heads and representatives of RMC will undergo a rigorous six-month workshop beginning July.

The plan also calls for the RMC management to sit together to redesign the hospital’s existing structure and create a blueprint for a more efficient hospital management.

The tie-up with RMC was a first for MMC Foundation in its effort to contribute to nation-building and promote national health, Bernardo said.

RMC was selected among five state-run hospitals shortlisted for the project primarily because of its strategic location, aside from it enjoying an “adequate” budget allocation from the Department of Health and the commitment it showed to the program.

Bernardo said RMC was best for such an “untested” program, being  a “catchment area” encompassing the cities of Pasig, Mandaluyong, Makati, Manila, Antipolo, Taguig and the town of Pateros.

“The benefits of an organizational strengthening program like this would be felt by a larger majority of the population that frequent the hospital,” she said.

Problematic areas

Based on initial meetings between MMC Foundation and  RMC, interventions could be done in the latter’s management processes, information system, human resource training requirements and customer service and satisfaction, among other “problematic areas.”

The pioneer program also looks at equipping hospital managers with skills to convert facilities, such as the parking lot, cafeteria and pharmacy, into “profit centers” to make the hospital more sustainable, according to foundation executive director Marge Barro.

Project proponents expect that by December this year,  RMC would be able to come up with its own strategies to maximize funds without having to rely on supplementary budgets from the national or local government to serve patients well.

“If they need a pediatric cardiac monitor, they will have to find a way to generate the funds or tap the necessary organizations worldwide to find it … They can’t expect us to do it, they will have to do it,” Bernardo said.

Like private hospital

In two years’ time and if everything goes as planned, the RMC is expected to become as good as a private hospital, she added.

“Ours is a work in progress, a PPP that still needs to be proven successful … but the foundation dares to take the first step toward a journey of a thousand more,” Bernardo said. “This is a translation of combined efforts toward fulfilling our dream of a healthier Philippines—the dream of every Filipino.”

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TAGS: Government, Health Services, Makati Medical Center, MMC Foundation, PPP Program, Public Health, Rizal Medical Center
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