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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE proposal to convert provincial and district hospitals into economic enterprise is another stumbling block to the passage of the Iloilo provincial government’s P1.3-billion budget for 2010.

Vice Governor Rolex T. Suplico said they need more time to study the executive department’s proposal to turn the Iloilo Provincial Hospital in Pototan town and 5 district hospitals into income-generating entities.

Suplico said the proposal is included in the 2010 budget which he finds strange as they have yet to pass a provincial ordinance allowing the conversion of the hospitals into economic enterprises.

“It’s already in the 2010 budget which is a case of putting the cart before the horse. We don’t have an ordinance on economic enterprises yet. So we need to study this proposal carefully before we can approve the 2010 budget,” Suplico said.

Suplico said the provincial will have to operate on a reenacted budget until they have passed a new budget next year.

The vice governor said provincial Board Members Rodolfo Cabado, June Mondejar and Shalene Hidalgo, who are sympathetic to Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr., agreed to study further the proposed economic enterprise.

The opposition dominated Sangguniang Panlalawigan is wary that Tupas’ proposal will deprive poor patients of health services if hospitals charge fees on all services offered.

Suplico said provincial and district hospitals are supposed to help the poor, not earn profit from their operations.

Earlier, Board Member Arthur R. Defensor Jr., vice chair of the committee on appropriations, said they have no time left to pass the 2010 budget because the extra cash gift and allowances of volunteer health workers consumed their remaining session days.

In a statement, Provincial Administrator Manuel P. Mejorada said money-making is not the ultimate purpose of the plan to convert hospitals into economic enterprises.

“What the province hopes to achieve is empower our hospitals to become self-sustaining enterprises that can vastly improve their infrastructure and medical facilities to better serve the Ilonggo people. The concept of economic enterprises is enshrined in the Local Government Code of 1991. Local government unites are encouraged to embark on income generating activities to help raise revenues aside from taxes,” Mejorada said.

Mejorada said hospitals “will invest in private rooms, state-of-the-art equipment, well-trained hospital staff and efficient laboratories so that patients who can afford the services will patronize them.”

Such upgrading will require heavy investments, and the cost can be recovered through the long term with revenues generated from paying patients.

Poor patients will still enjoy affordable or free hospital services as the expected rise in income will help shoulder the cost for charity services.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

POOR patients in Iloilo province will be disadvantaged by the move of the provincial government to turn district hospitals into “economic enterprises,” according to House Majority Floor Leader Arthur D. Defensor Sr.

Rep. Defensor was reacting to the proposal of the Provincial Health Office, through the Hospital Operations and Management Service, and the Provincial Planning and Development Office to convert the 11 district hospitals into income generating entities.

The proposal is seen to cut the subsidies of district hospitals from the provincial government. Hospitals will have to support their operations by charging service fees on patients who are mostly indigents from the 42 towns and 1 component city of the province.

The proposal is pending with the committee of ways and means chaired by Board Member Arthur r. Defensor, son of Rep. Defensor.

Rep. Defensor said health care is a basic service that must be provided free or affordably by the government to the poor.

He surmised that turning district hospitals into “cash cows” of the provincial government will jack up fees for various hospitals services.

 “The district hospitals are for the poor. What will happen if they become economic enterprises instead of service-oriented?” said Defensor who is running for Iloilo governor.

Defensor said the provincial government will have to realign its priorities to address the health needs of its constituents.

“This government must be prepared to sacrifice somewhere. I would rather sacrifice government resources than let the poor pay,” he added.

Defensor said he will continue to give honorarium to volunteer workers in the province in recognition of their services to their constituents. “There is a possibility that we might even increase their honorarium.”

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