THE PHILIPPINE Hospital Association (PHA), which represents both public and private medical establishments, has underscored the need to increase the government’s pandemic response budget for next year, citing the increased threat from the coronavirus Delta variant and rising costs of medicines.   

“It will be more than justified considering the uncertainties presented by the pandemic and the need to align and respond to it accordingly,” President Jaime A. Almora told BusinessWorld in an e-mail interview.

He said the group submitted a request for a supplemental fund for health-related items and services under the proposed budget for next year, which is currently under deliberation in Congress and still open to amendments.

Mr. Almora said there is currently a shortage of medicines for the treatment of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients, adding that those available are priced exorbitantly at about three to four times more than earlier costs.

“Just like funding for purchase of vaccines, the government should provide funds for medicines. Preventive and curative should be considered,” he said.

Mr. Almora also urged Congress to provide an adequate allocation to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to ensure payment of reimbursements claimed by hospitals for COVID-19 patients.

As of end-August, PHA said PhilHealth owed about P21.1 billion to hospitals, causing “severe financial distress” to medical institutions.

Mr. Almora also pushed for the continuous payment of Special Risk Allowance (SRA) to both public and private health workers.

Senator Richard J. Gordon, Sr. filed in August Senate Bill No. 2371 that mandates the continuing grant of SRA and other benefits to both public and private health workers, whether assigned directly in COVID wards or not, with retroactive application from July 2021.

“Our health workers risk their lives to respond to their duty of collectively operating the country’s healthcare system during this pandemic,” said Mr. Gordon in a statement last Saturday. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan