Lawmakers alarmed over budget cuts for gov't hospitals

September 14, 2010 10:47 am 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Sept. 13 — Lawmakers on Monday expressed alarm on the reduction of almost 42 percent on the allocations for some government hopitals in the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DoH) for 2011.

House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, during the hearing of the Appropriations committee for the proposed P32.7 billion budget of the DoH, questioned Health Secretary Enrique Ona on the reduction in the budget for some public hospitals in the country.

He particularly took note on the cut in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) budget of East Avenue Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, and Amang Rodriguez Medical Center.

The MOOE budget of Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center was reduced by P9.3 million while that of San Lazaro Hospital was reduced by P6.5 million.

"Can we rationalize these reductions and most probably see if we could increase the allocation for these particular medical centers?" Lagman asked Ona.

Ona explained that parts of the budget for the said hospitals went to other medical institutions under the DoH "which have been neglected for sometime."

"I think this was in the light of needs or prioritization because of the needs of other DoH medical centers which have been neglected for sometime," he said.

Ona said congressional insertions, usually sourced from lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund, were not yet included in their proposed budget.

Lagman, however, said he was not referring to the initiatives of congressmen.

"That has been done traditionally. But what I was talking about was over and above the Priority Development Assistance Fund," he said.

The Albay solon reminded Ona that Congress has the "power of the purse" as mandated by the Constitution.

"We should not be hesitant to make the necessary amendments, modifications or even abandonment of certain items in the National Expenditure Program to give way to congressional initiatives which would fund items in the proposed budget overlooked by the executive," he said.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casino also expressed alarm at the dwindling budget for the health sector.

"Capital outlay for the 12 major hospitals under the DoH and 55 public hospitals nationwide have been removed and lumped together in a lump sum for use at the discretion of the Secretary. Also, MOOE, which is the lifeblood of public hospitals, have been substantially reduced, sometimes at more than 50 percent," he said.

Casino said the budget for specialty public hospitals, like the Lung Center, Kidney Center and Heart Center, was slashed by P970.6 million. Even the budget for Philhealth premiums for indigents, which stood at P5.17 billion this year, was slashed by more than a billion to only P3.5 billion for 2011.

There were also significant decreases in the budgets for "Subsidy for Indigent Patients for Confinement or Use of Specialized Equipment" (P36 million in 2010 to P16 million in 2011); "Operations for Health Centers for Health and Development" (from P2.5 billion this year to P2.27 billion in 2011); and "Family Health Including Family Planning" (from P1.4 billion to P931 million next year), he said.

Casino said that given the budgetary cuts for health centers, the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which aims to reduce poverty through welfare programs, would be a waste of money.

"We will give the poor monthly cash dole outs for them to go to the health centers and yet we will not be funding these centers properly. Unless we spend more on these health facilities, the CCT program will not lead to better health for the poor," he said.

The proposed P32.7 billion budget of the DoH for 2011 is P7.5 billion higher than the P25.238 billion budget for the year.

However, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla said the P5 billion of the amount could not be considered as an increase in the DoH budget as these were merely transferred to the department.

Padilla was referring to the P3.5 billion from the Assistance to Local Government Units, formerly under the budget of Philhealth, and P1.5 billion for potable water from Local Water Utilities Administration formerly under the Department of Public Works and Highways.

"I was happy that DOH would be getting a P7.5 billion increase but my enthusiasm was dampened when I heard that this is not new money," he said. (PNA)

vcs/LGI

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