UST Hospital retrenches due to pandemic losses, delayed PhilHealth reimbursement

Bonz Magsambol
UST Hospital retrenches due to pandemic losses, delayed PhilHealth reimbursement
PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales, however, says the state insurer doesn't have unsettled reimbursements to UST hospital

MANILA, Philippines – The University of Santo Tomas Hospital (USTH) said on Sunday, May 3, that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) owed them P180 million in expenses for patients in 2019, compelling the hospital to retrench employees due to financial losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic

“Reimbursement is delayed by an average of 5-6 months. Currently the receivable of USTH from Philhealth stands at more than P180 million and counting,” USTH director Dr Marcellus Francis Ramirez said in a statement published in UST’s official school publication The Varsitarian. 

PhilHealth CEO and President Ricardo Morales, however, told Rappler on Monday, May 4, that they don’t have any unsettled reimbursements to USTH.

“We paid UST average of P400 million per year [and] advanced P85 million on April 18 for COVID-19. No utang PhilHealth sa UST (PhilHealth doesn’t owe anything to UST),” Morales said. 

In a phone interview with Rappler, USTH Union President Siazon confirmed that at least 8 employees under the clerical department of the hospital were retrenched. 

According to Ramirez, “the huge cost brought about by our contingency measures to address the demands of the pandemic” is taking a very serious toll on the hospital’s sustainability.

“While the news around significantly highlights the health and medical impact of the pandemic, the huge economic and financial impact brought about by this crisis to all business establishments, most especially to healthcare institutions, is often overlooked,” Ramirez added. 

More employees to be retrenched

Meanwhile, Siazon expressed concern as more employees will be laid off following the annoucement of the hospital director.

“Mukang massive talaga ang gagawin na pagtanggal. Marami pa rin kasi nakakatanggap ng notice,” Siazon said. (It’s going to be a massive retrenchment. There are still many who are receiving notices.)

Siazon appealed to the management of USTH to take back the retrenchment notice they served to employees. 

‘Yung isang employee na tinanggal ay 32 years na sa USTH. Ang mga tinanggal pa nila ay may mga lifetime treatment at ‘yung mga pinapakinabangan ang benefits na binibigay ng hospital,” Siazon said.

(One employee who was retrenched had been working for 32 years at USTH. They laid off employees who need lifetime treatment and benefits that the hospital is giving to its employees.)

Siazon added: “Bakit naman sa panahon pa ng COVID-19? ‘Yung issue nila ng PhilHealth sana huwag nilang idamay ang mga empleyado.” (Why did they have to do this at this time of COVID-19? The employees should not be involved in hospital management’s issue with PhilHealth.) 

Meanwhile, Ramirez said they have no idea when USTH operations will return to normal and they are uncertain if they “can actually fully operate within the year.”

“The new normal, as it is called, and which we are gradually transitioning into, will not be an assurance that the hospital’s current manpower will still be the number needed to operate it. Painful decisions were needed to be made,” Ramirez added. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.