Rich get bigger benefits, says PCSO chief
PHILIPPINE Charity Sweepstakes Office Chair Ayong Maliksi is seeking a review of the agency’s individual medical assistance program over reports that patently unqualified medical patients were receiving unwarranted benefits and enjoying favored treatment because of their closeness to some PCSO officials.
“While others line up from dawn to seek assistance and only receive a fraction of what they need, some patients [who are] supposedly close to some officials of the agency have had all their medical bills covered while confined in expensive hospital suites,” Maliksi said in an interview.
He noted that while the assistance extended by the agency to indigent patients covered only at least 10 percent of their total hospital expenses, “those who have connections receive up to more than P1 million in financial help from the PCSO.”
Apart from the special accommodation, “guarantee letters are provided to these patients three to four times a month without the patient or his or her relatives being interviewed by a social worker as required,” Maliksi said.
Maliksi gave the Inquirer the names of supposedly favored patients, but the Inquirer has decided not to publish them to protect their privacy.
Documents furnished by the PCSO chair showed that these favored beneficiaries lived in posh villages.
Maliksi said the guarantee letters of the favored patients were usually picked up by their drivers or personal assistants and the requests were “received and released on the same day.”
The PCSO chair said he would also be launching an investigation into supposed “ghost” beneficiaries who reportedly received thousands of pesos in medical assistance from the charity agency.
“We also received reports of ghost beneficiaries of medical assistance, which is harder to establish because of the bulk of the transactions,” he said.
Maliksi said he found out about the irregularities in the program after a visit to the Lung Center of the Philippines, following reports of long queues of patients and their relatives applying for PCSO help at the hospital where documents for medical assistance were being processed.
“I wanted to do something about the long lines and cut the waiting time for assistance,” he said.
In one of the more notorious cases, P1.3-million worth of medical assistance was extended to a single patient, which was covered by 11 guarantee letters issued by the charity agency in favor of that one patient.
Maliksi said PCSO rules allow for only one guarantee letter per patient to give a chance to other applicants for medical assistance.
“Except maybe in extraordinary circumstances, a patient can only be issued a guarantee letter every three months,” he said.
Instead of giving the financial assistance in cash, the PCSO issues guarantee letters to the hospitals where the patients are confined, making an undertaking that the charity agency would pay for the patient’s hospital stay.
Guarantee letters are issued only after a patient or relative has been interviewed by a social worker who conducts a case study of the applicant.
It is also the social worker who receives and checks the documents submitted, including the original copy of the medical abstract with the name, signature and license number of the attending doctor and copies of hospital bills.
The social worker, after conducting a study of the case, is the one who makes the recommendation for the amount of financial assistance that the PCSO can extend, based on the financial capacity of the patient.
In the case of the favored patients, “documents were brought to the assigned social workers and followed up by the staff of the [PCSO] officials or the officials themselves,” Maliksi said.
Maliksi pointed to the obvious discrimination in the allocation of medical assistance.
Records of the PCSO charity sector showed that patients who received assistance ranging from P100,000 to as high as P1.4 million in hospitalization bills were all confined in expensive hospitals, while assistance for the same classification of patients confined in public hospitals represented only a fraction of that amount.
Patients confined in the more expensive hospitals like St. Luke’s Medical Center, Medical City, Makati Medical Center, Victor Potenciano Hospital, Cardinal Santos, among others, were given assistance by the PCSO in amounts ranging from P100,000 to P1.4 million.
In contrast, patients confined at state-owned or far more modest facilities like the Philippine General Hospital, Metropolitan Medical Center, Ospital ng Makati, Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital and provincial hospitals obtained financial assistance that ranged from a low of P1,680 to a high of P83,000.
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