Press Release
February 6, 2014

Koko cautions against hasty privatization of gov't hospitals

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III today cautioned against the hasty privatization of the country's lone specialized orthopedic hospital, saying it runs counter to the government's policy on poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor and vulnerable.

Pimentel asked the Department of Health (DOH) to put on hold the privatization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC) until issues raised by various groups, among them the National Orthopedic Hospital Workers Union-Alliance of Health Workers, are fully addressed.

He said that aside from denying expert medical care to poor patients who could not afford to pay their bills, hospital employees are also bound to lose their jobs once the new management of the privatized hospital takes over.

Pimentel said that the DOH is mandated by law to ensure access to basic health services for all, but wondered why it is rushing the privatization of specialized hospital without an alternative to accommodate poor patients despite getting a huge P84.4 billion this year.

He said that since the advent of the Local Government Code of 1991 in which health services were devolved to local governments, the DOH budget has gone up dramatically over the years despite the transfer of vast functions and manpower to the LGUs.

The DOH had awarded to Megawide-World Citi Consortium the privatization of the POC at a cost of P5.69 billion, hoping to modernize the 700-bed hospital that caters to patients with musculoskeletal disorders and serves as a center for trauma and orthopedics.

But Pimentel said that the more than 6,000 patients, eighty percent of whom are service patients and majority not members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), will be displaced by the privatization and they have no place to go.

He said that the government could not simply just set aside the interest of the poor patients as it is its moral duty to provide free and affordable healthcare to the people, especially the poor and the vulnerable in society.

Pimentel said there is need to review the privatization policy which was introduced by then President Ramos, which he said is nothing more but sale of government assets and transfer of erstwhile government functions into the hands and control of the private sector.

He said he has received reports that existing private-public partnerships in government hospitals have gotten the ire of the public because of exorbitant fees being charged by private firms operating diagnostic medical equipment and clinics inside the hospitals.

"Before proceeding with further privatization of government hospitals, government should study first the effect and performance of previously privatized government hospitals. Then we should answer if we are to proceed with this policy," Pimentel added.

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