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Going for broke in CCMC

/ 02:43 PM October 31, 2013

Debate is essential in a democracy like ours and the squabble between Cebu City Mayor Michael “Mike” Rama and majority members of the City Council over which option to take with regards to the quake-damaged Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) may be seen in this light.

Mayor Rama wants to demolish the 45-year-old structure after it was badly damaged by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake. However, his efforts to build a new hospital for the city’s poor are being blocked by Osmeña partisans in the council who believe that retrofitting the CCMC is the better option.

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Nobody could quarrel with the mayor’s stance because the Department of Engineering and Public Works and the Office of the Building Official practically condemned the CCMC after the two agencies assessed the facility.

On the other hand, there is merit in the position of the majority because a retrofit is manageable and insures the delivery of health care services the soonest possible time. Repairing the damaged portion will require P15 million to P25 million, which is readily available. The project could be accomplished in two months.

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In the case of a new 1,000-bed hospital which Mike envisions, a pundit remarked, “gi-drawing pa ang kwarta alang sa maong proyekto nga molungtad og duha ka tuig” (there’s no money yet for a project that will take two years to complete).

In any case, I find it interesting that Mike was not exactly averse to the idea of retrofitting the CCMC. During a command conference last October 16, he announced that the CCMC “will have to undergo retrofitting works” to insure that the hospital will be safe for public use. This was after he received the report of the DEPW and the OBO.

The question is, what happened between October 16 and October 19, which saw the mayor changing his tune, even making a turnaround by declaring that retrofitting is not an option, but rather demolition to make way for a new hospital?

My guess is that he is looking at the experience of Makati City and the inspiration of its former mayor now Vice President Jejomar Binay, who happens to be the leader of the national political opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and hizzoner’s chief political ally.

Makati City owns and manages the premier tertiary hospital known as Ospital ng Makati or OsMak for short. The forerunner of this modern hospital which is located in barangay Pembo, is a modest facility built in 1988 in Bel-Air, near many gated subdivisions or enclaves of well-to-do Makati city residents.

Binay, a prominent political activist and human rights lawyer during the Martial Law days, rose to political prominence after the fall of the Marcos government. He controls the country’s richest local government unit, having been the city mayor for two three-year successive terms (1988 to 1998, 2001 to 2010). His wife Elenita succeeded him when his first three terms expired in 1998. After he was eElected vice president in 2010, Makati is now run by his son and namesake, Junjun.

Among Binay’s legacies to modern Makati are health care services and benefits for the elderly, programs that are considered benchmarks for local government units.

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According to the LGU’s web portal, the Ospital ng Makati “provides free outpatient consultations and subsidized hospitalization benefits to Makati residents, particularly beneficiaries of the Yellow Card (Makati Health Plus) program and senior citizens.”

The menu of subsidized medical services is very comprehensive that some people might think it is purely hype. The 25-year old facility recently passed the inspection, verification, testing and certification audit of SGS Philippines which granted Osmak official recognition for its quality management system.

Binay takes credit for the success of these social services but a key to this feat is massive funding. Makati City collects huge taxes from big corporations with main offices in Makati. The city is otherwise known as the financial capital of the Philippines.

With Osmak as his brainchild, I think the Veep may have encouraged Mike to go for broke when Binay visited Cebu last October 17.

My own two cents is, why not? Cebu City has always figured in the map of investors and tourists, but lack of proper health care for the poor is a concern that, after the strong earthquake, could no longer be swept under the rug.

In that sense, Mike merely reflects the aspirations of Cebuanos who want to see the poor given vital health services in a way that adapts to population growth and considers the status of our city not just as hub of investments and tourists but as a humane society. We cannot profess to be a city that espouses justice and peace if we cannot take care of people in our own backyard.

In the meantime, I fully support the proposal that the city sign a memoranda of agreement with big private hospitals to accept patients endorsed by the city government. The tie-up complements the interim arrangement that CCMC hospital chief Dr. Gloria Duterte has set up in the Bureau of Fire Protection 7 building while the government finalizes plans to build a new hospital.

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