Transfer of children’s hospital now unlikely, says DOH chief
MANILA, Philippines–The transfer of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) will likely not push through anymore, Health Secretary Enrique Ona told lawmakers on Thursday.
“We have no more intention to transfer PCMC. We’re looking now at a proposal to modernize the PCMC in the same lot, for presentation to the board of trustees,” Ona told the appropriations committee of the House of Representatives deliberating on the Department of Health’s (DOH) proposed P88 billion budget.
However, he did not give a categorical answer to Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares’ question on whether the transfer plan had definitely been scrapped.
“Most likely, that is what will happen,” Ona said as he added: We have a coming board meeting. I won’t preempt [the] decision of the board. But we’re now looking seriously into a proposal “to modernize in the same location.”
The DOH earlier said it was considering transferring the hospital to a high-rise building that would be built on the Lung Center of the Philippines compound on East Avenue in Quezon City. But this was met with opposition, prompting the department to withdraw the plan.
Since it opened in 1980, the PCMC has occupied a 3.7-hectare property owned by the National Housing Authority (NHA) at the corner of Agham Road and Quezon Avenue, also in Quezon City.
The NHA, however, has been demanding payment of P1.1 billion from PCMC for the use of the lot. It has also sold portions of the property to other government agencies, most recently, to the think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).
The PIDS reportedly used P85 million out of the P660 million it received under the voided Disbursement Acceleration Program to buy a 2,500-square-meter portion of the lot.
Ona, however, refused to comment on the sale when he was asked about it by Colmenares. “That’s beyond me. That’s between NHA and PIDS,” he said.
At the same time, the health secretary expressed frustration at “so much misunderstanding” arising from the plan to transfer PCMC.
“For so many reasons that still surprise me, there’s talk that we’re out to privatize it,” he said.
“But our basic intention is to give the country a modern children’s center in an area that’s bigger than what they have now,” Ona added.
On the land ownership issue with the NHA, Ang Nars party-list Rep. Leah Paquiz sought and received a promise from Ona that he would submit a report to the committee on the DOH’s plans to acquire the property.
Under a proposal presented months ago by PCMC assistant director Dr. Vince Gomez, the hospital would buy the lot it stands on from the NHA for P1.1 billion. Two buildings would then be constructed to increase its capacity by 75 to 100 beds.
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