By Charmaine A. Tadalan
THE Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday approved the bill seeking to appropriate the P1.16-billion refund from Sanofi Pasteur for families of alleged victims in the Dengvaxia controversy “effective until fully spent.”
House Bill 7449, authored by Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, sought to appropriate the fund for fiscal year 2018, but the Committee proposed instead to remove that period.
The Department of Health (DoH) appealed to committee chair Karlo Alexei B. Nograles to extend the duration of the supplemental budget, anticipating they will not be able to fully exhaust the funds until 2019.
“P900 million is enough to cover admissions for 40,000 patients,” Health undersecretary Rolando Enrique D. Domingo said.
THE revised Dengvaxia Assistance Program proposal allotted P945.8 million, or 81% of the P1.16 billion fund, for a medical assistance program which will cover both admitted patients as well as outpatients.
Mr. Domingo explained mild cases of hospitalization will range from P6,000 to P13,000; slightly severe cases, P16,000; and catastrophic cases, up to P500,000.
“When we average all of this, (it) is about P13,000 to P14,000,” Mr. Domingo said. “Kahit na 40,000 ang bandwidth natin for 2018 and 2019, merong susobra (There will be excess budget even if our bandwidth is 40,000 for 2018 and 2019).”
Rep. Johnny Ty Pimentel shared the same concern, saying “what will happen if we did not utilize this P945 million? If ever we pass this supplemental budget, we should include in the provision that this will sort of (become) a trust fund that there will be no expiration.” Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno last week proposed to extend appropriation of the fund up to fiscal year 2019.
Further, Mr. Domingo noted the proposed supplemental Health Assistance Program for those who availed themselves of the Dengvaxia program has already been certified as urgent by the Office of the President. Mr. Nograles had requested the Health department to provide the certification to the Committee.
“I plan to have this approved on the floor by next week, for second and third reading. We still have to send it to the Senate,” Mr. Nograles said.
The DoH program will cover patients affected by any illnesses that are arguably related to Dengvaxia.
Also proposed is a P148-million budget for public health management, P78 million of which will be for assessment and monitoring of Dengvaxia cases, while the other P70 million will be for supplies and medicines.
Initially, the health agency proposed allotting P45 million of the supplies budget to the issuance of a Dengvaxia assistance card and P25 million to supplies and medicines; but the Committee on Appropriations moved to reverse the allocation.
“I think that is enough, the P25 million [for the ID cards],” Mr. Nograles said. “So the P45 million will now be for the supplies and medicines needed.”
The health agency projects 1,250 nurses will be deployed for three months to cover for the 900,000 inoculated, each nurse with a target of 12 patients a day.
The remaining P 67.5 million will be used for follow-up checkups with complaints. The nurses will also be tasked to provide counselling, lecture sessions, disease prevention and health promotion.
The bill was consolidated with House Resolutions 1724, urging the Department of Budget and Management to reallocate the amount of P1 billion from available savings to augment the allocations of the DoH and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); and with House Joint Resolution 20, which proposed appropriating the amount for hospital expenses of children vaccinated with Dengvaxia.
By Charmaine A. Tadalan