The Department of Health’s (DOH) proposed P160.15 billion budget for 2020 was approved on committee level during a Senate public hearing presided by Senator Bong Go, chair of the Subcommittee F of the Senate Committee on Finance.

During the hearing, Go expressed his full support for the DOH. However, the legislator also raised concerns regarding the budget allocated for the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law, saying that it might not be enough to cover all expenditures.

“You have a proposed 2020 budget of P67.35 Billion in the (National Expenditure Program),” the lawmaker asked the representatives of the health department present. “Is this enough for the implementation of the Universal Health Care next year?”

The health officials responded, saying that “with the P67 billion, the department will not be able to execute the full intent of the UHC as the budget approved is lower than what was proposed.”

The DOH then appealed for help from the senators to increase the budget for the program.

Go concurred, saying that he will ask the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to sit down with the DOH and PhilHealth.

“Gusto ko sana tanungin ang DBM kaso wala dito. Ano rason bakit ‘yung hinihingi, hindi binigay. I will request the DBM to sit down with DOH and PhilHealth to discuss the deficit,” he said.

Meanwhile, expressing his concern on the need to allocate enough budget based on bed capacities of public hospitals around the country, Go cited the proposed budget for the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City as an example where a public hospital with a high bed capacity was given a minimal increase in their budget.

“VSMMC that has the largest bed capacity among DOH hospitals in Region VII with 1,200 beds but was only allocated an increase of 3.85% in the 2020 budget. While other hospitals with lower bed capacities were allocated with high increases in their budget,” he said.

Go added, “What formula guided the DOH in arriving at the proposed 2020 budget for the operation of VSMMC and other DOH hospitals?”

According to the DOH, the budget is determined based on the income level of the hospitals.

“I am bothered by the decrease in the budget of HFEP for 2020.”

In the hearing, Go also tackled the 2020 budget for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the DOH as many hospitals all over the country still require such assistance.

“We should aim to have more barangay health stations and rural health units.”

“I am bothered by the decrease in the budget of HFEP for 2020 because I have been visiting hospitals around the country. I have seen the need to assist government hospitals and provide them with equipment and infrastructure,” he said.

Go added, “With the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law, we need to ensure that our hospitals are properly equipped, and we should aim to have more barangay health stations and rural health units.”

Noting that the program’s low disbursement and utilization rates urged the DBM to decrease its budget, he asked if the DOH has already implemented improvements in terms of its disbursements.

“The reason why DBM submitted a very low budget for HFEP is DOH’s low disbursement and utilization rate, meaning most projects are not completed. Did the DOH improve now in terms of disbursement? What is your obligation and disbursement rate for the HFEP budget this year?” Go asked.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III responded, enumerating several reasons for the HFEP’s low disbursement and utilization rate, including bidding problems, land ownership issues, contractors’ performance, lack of manpower and security issues, among others.

Go, then, urged the DOH to further improve the delivery of their services and assistance, as he has previously visited hospitals in dire need of their assistance, particularly in regard to their facilities and infrastructure.

“Galing ako sa Naga, isang hospital dun ‘di pa natatapos ang building. Ganun din sa Borongan,” he said. “Kawawa naman. Paki-check naman po. Lalo na DOH-run hospitals,” Go added.

Duque agreed, saying that the DOH has already made infrastructure enhancement of hospitals a priority, and that they have already put a system in place for more efficient service delivery.

“Bahagi ng priority po natin yan. Infrastructure. Gumawa na po tayo ng sistema. Dati wala pa. Tama po kayo. ‘Yung mga nakikita niyong nakatengga, dapat magamit ng mga kababayan natin lalo na ng mga mahihirap,” the health chief said.

Duque meanwhile, lauded Go’s Malasakit Center initiative, saying that it will greatly benefit from the improvement of infrastructure of the country’s hospitals.

“Maganda po ito lalo na sa inyong initiative na Malasakit Centers,” Duque said.


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