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    Posted February 6, 2014 by

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    Put it on hold, Phl senator asks gov’t

    SENATOR Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III on Thursday asked the government to put on hold the planned privatization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC) to give poor patients access to basic health services.
    Saying the plan runs counter to the government's policy on poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor, Pimentel also said workers will lose their jobs with the hasty privatization of the hospital.
    POC is the lone specialized orthopedic hospital in the country.
    Pimentel told the Department of Health (DOH) that issues raised by various groups, among them the National Orthopedic Hospital Workers Union-Alliance of Health Workers, are not yet fully addressed.
    He said that aside from denying expert medical care to poor patients who could not afford to pay their bills, hospital employees are also bound to lose their jobs once the new management of the privatized hospital takes over.
    “The DOH is mandated by law to ensure access to basic health services for all, but I wondered why it is rushing the privatization of specialized hospital without an alternative to accommodate poor patients despite getting a huge P84.4 billion this year,” Pimentel said.
    He said that since the advent of the Local Government Code of 1991 in which health services were devolved to local governments, the DOH budget has gone up dramatically over the years despite the transfer of vast functions and manpower to local government units.
    The DOH had awarded to Megawide-World Citi Consortium the privatization of the POC at a cost of P5.69 billion, hoping to modernize the 700-bed hospital that caters to patients with musculoskeletal disorders and serves as a center for trauma and orthopedics.
    But Pimentel said more than 6,000 patients, 80 percent of whom are service patients and majority not members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), will be displaced by the privatization and they have no place to go.
    "Before proceeding with further privatization of government hospitals, government should study first the effect and performance of previously privatized government hospitals. Then we should answer if we are to proceed with this policy," Pimentel said.
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