By Charmaine A. Tadalan
BANNING privatization of state hospitals is still under consideration in the Senate, said Senator and Health committee chair Joseph Victor G. Ejercito.
“We are still studying the proposed measure. We do not want to craft a law or even propose a measure that is not responsive to our people’s needs,” Mr. Ejercito told BusinessWorld in a phone message, Wednesday.
The remarks were made in response to House Bill (HB) 7437, which seeks prohibition of state hospitals from privatization and corporatization. The bill has already hurdled second reading in the chamber.
While he said he recognized the contribution of the private sector in health care assistance, Mr. Ejercito said that privatization of public hospital is not the key to improving accessibility and affordability of health-care services.
“Our government has resorted to some non-traditional approach such as PPP (Public-Private Partnership) to address the problem,” Mr. Ejercito said. “We see this as only a form of ‘first-aid’ to our wounded national health care system as we continue to introduce our long term reforms.”
The “Anti-Privatization of Public Hospitals, Health Facilities and Health Facilities and Services Act” protects the right to health of the public by ensuring the government will continue running state hospitals.
It also proposed that 90% of the total bed capacity of public hospitals will accommodate poor patients.
Violators will be fined P100,000 to P200,000 and may face one to two years of suspension for the first offense; P200,000 to P500,000 and a temporary disqualification from holding any public post for three to six years on the second offense; and P500,000 to P800,000 and removal from office with perpetual disqualification for the third offense.
“Our government hospitals have now become an indispensable part and a necessity of every Filipino families. As public hospitals continue to gain the trust of our countrymen, it is our duty to ensure that it stays that way — government-funded and people-oriented,” Mr. Ejercito said, adding that he sees the penalties contained in the bill will serve as a “deterrent” to any plans to privatize hospitals.
But Mr. Ejercito also pointed out that the Department of Health is not fully in support of the bill, as “the provisions on privatization are equated with PPP and corporatization. This might affect GOCC (Government-Owned and Controlled Corporation) hospitals.”
GOCC hospitals include the Philippine Heart Center, the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Lung Center of the Philippines and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center.
For his part, co-author Rep. Jose L. Atienza, Jr. during his privilege speech said the bill intends to stop the “alarming and unacceptable trend of big business eyeing the real estate value of strategically-located hospitals.”