Budget Watch

Health workers hit budget cuts in public hospitals amidst fight vs COVID-19

Lian Buan
Health workers hit budget cuts in public hospitals amidst fight vs COVID-19

BUDGET CUTS. Alliance of Health Workers president Robert Mendoza hits budget cuts in public hospitals.

Screenshot from Cure Covid Livestream

'The proposed health budget reflects the government's total abandonment of the people's right to health care. This will never solve the COVID-19 pandemic,' says Alliance of Health Workers president Robert Mendoza

Philippine health workers hit the slashed funding suffered by public hospitals in the 2022 proposed budget, calling it the Duterte government’s “total abandonment of the peoples’ right to health care.”

“The proposed health budget reflects the government’s total abandonment of the people’s right to health care which would lead to the collapse of the public healthcare system. This will never solve the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Alliance of Health Workers president Robert Mendoza during a press conference of the group Cure Covid, pointing out wrong priorities in the national budget.

Mendoza said that the Fabella Memorial Hospital, one of Manila’s main public hospitals, will endure a P7.56 billion budget cut in personnel service (PS). PS refers to salaries, wages and other compensation of personnel.

Mendoza said more regional hospitals will have millions of budget cuts in their MOOEs or Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses.

These are the following:

  • P10.475 million MOOE cut for Batanes General Hospital
  • P67.3 million MOOE cut in Region II Trauma and Medical Center
  • P90 million MOOE cut in Bicol Region General Hospital
  • P28.2 million MOOE cut in Mindanao Central Sanitarium in Zamboanga Peninsula

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the country’s main testing center for COVID-19, is also facing a P170 million slash in funding in its proposed 2022 budget.

DOH budget

Mendoza said that if you look at the proposed 22 budget for the Department of Health (DOH), there is P66.38 billion allotted for programs which, according to him, has historically been used as some sort of pork barrel.

They include medicine and vaccine procurement, Health Facilities Enhancement Program and Assistance to Indigent Patients program.

DOH is repeatedly flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) for buying medicines that expire eventually, prompting Senator Panfilo Lacson to ask in one of the Senate hearings if there is a DOH mafia selling medicines.

Mendoza said the indigent patients funds should have been given to hospitals, and not to the DOH.

Wrong priorities

The briefing of Cure Covid once again hit the government for wrong priorities in the budget.

Economist Sonny Africa, executive director of IBON, said the big winners in the proposed 2022 budget were still infrastructure, and the anti-insurgency campaign through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“Our economic managers are not development people, they are finance people, they are proud of things like credit worthiness, revenue ratios, they don’t get that economy is about the life of an ordinary Filipino,” Africa said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Budgeting expert Zy-za Suzara, executive director of the Institute for Leadership, Empowerment and Democracy (i-Lead) said that a close look at the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) would show worsening spending performance by the agency tasked to implement the Build Build Build program.

This means the DPWH was the agency that did not spend most of its budget.

This was the same with the Departmen of Transportation, said Suzara.

“If the economic managers are saying that infrastructure spending has high multiplier effect, how can we say that it has a positive impact if the disbursement is not moving?” said Suzara in a mix of English and Filipino.

High multiplier effect means jobs created, and overall improvement in economic productivity.

“Thre is a need to address the public health crisis first, before we can even go on the path of economic recovery. But how can we recover if government underspends and worse, spends on the wrong priorities?” said Suzara.

– Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.