Firetraps, Tax Delinquents, Budget-Strapped Hospitals

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State-owned hospitals faced its toughest challenges this year with three big issues clouding it: the impending budget cut, violation of fire code, and negligence in paying taxes.

Media cut poses the biggest problem as it could result to the closure of government hospitals. The DOH reportedly warned that state-run hospitals such as San Lazaro Hospital (SLH) and Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRMMC) might have to be closed by the end of the year if the budget department does not fill the hospitals’ funding needs for the 3rd quarter. The pronouncements of the DOH stemmed from reports that the administration has cut the agency’s budget for next year from P12 billion to P11.425 billion. (Philippine Star, September 4)

Upon learning about the situation, Senator Oreta urged MalacaƱang to immediately resolve the funding problem now plaguing government hospitals to prevent its forced closure later this year. The senator noted that closing down government health facilities would deprive indigent patients access to medical treatment and their right to proper health care as stated under the Constitution. Oreta said that the administration’s apparent neglect of the country’s government hospitals reflects badly on how MalacaƱang has given priority to primary health care. (Daily Tribune, September 6)

Meanwhile, the Coalition of Health Budget Increase (CHBI) claimed that the worsening health services as well the decrease in health budget has increased the mortality rate in several state hospitals. The group cited as examples the situation in Tondo Medical Center (TMC) where the average of 49 deaths per month rose to 65 and the usual 144 deaths per month in SLH increased to 184. Hospital admission was also affected as CHBI reported that from the 33,773 patients admitted at JRMMC in 1998, It has only seen and treated 25,858 in 2001, while only 12,689 patients were admitted for the first seven months of 2002. (Daily Tribune, September 8)

To solve the problem, the DOH reportedly met with the representatives from the budget department to request the release of the remaining 25% of the total funds needed for the government hospitals’ operational expenditure. The said 25% translates to P3 billion as the DOH has a P12 billion share of appropriation funds this year. (Daily Tribune, September 9)

On the issue of fire code violation, Quezon City-based National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI) and East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) were among the establishments slapped with charges for violating the Fire Code and the National Building Code. Aside from being charged as fire code violator, EAMC was also cited for having no certificate of occupancy for all its structures. (PDI, February 6)

In a related report, the DOH admitted that majority of the 72 government hospitals nationwide are potential firetraps and need major renovations. The department said that most state hospitals reportedly lack sprinkler systems and that to fill up this deficiency alone would cost P30 million. The DOH added that it has set aside P100 million for repairs of public hospitals that were earlier declared as firetraps. These hospitals include JRMMC, SLH, TMC, and Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital. (Manila Times, June 12)

After being stamped as cash-strapped and firetraps, her comes another label: tax delinquents.

Just as the year started, news on the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) and NKTI as among the government corporations that have been remiss in paying their property taxes hit the headlines. (Philippine Star, January 4)

A news report in early February said that government hospitals included in the list of tax delinquents expanded and now include other Quezon City-based state-run medical facilities such as EAMC and Lung Center of the Philippines. (People’s Tonight, February 9)

By the end of February, news broke out that NKTI would be up for sale unless it would settle its unpaid realty taxes. The government of Quezon City has been reportedly warning NKTI but it ignored the reminders of city hall. The NKTI was said to owe the city government P9.6 million. (Today, February 27)

The sale of NKTI, however, did not push through as the hospital reportedly proposed to pay a portion of its unpaid taxes. Its sale has been cancelled pending negotiations. (Today, February 28)

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