Congressional bills to privatize government hospitals draw flak

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY(MindaNews/ 1 December)—Militant groups here have strongly opposed the proposed privatization of government hospitals in the country, a sentiment described by a Department of Health (DOH) official as “premature.”

Dr. Jaime Berdanas, former director of DOH Northern Mindanao, said over the phone Friday that House Bill 6069, authored by Bacolod City Rep. Anthony Golez, and its counterpart Senate Bill 3130, authored by Sen. Franklin Drilon, will not privatize government hospitals as claimed by the Network Opposed to Privatization (NOP).

Last Thursday, NOP, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Bayan Muna and Gabriela members held a rally in front of the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) to express their opposition to what they call as “immoral, unjust and life-threatening bills.”

NMMC is a tertiary regional government hospital here.

“The bills filed in Congress are aimed to convert all government medical centers and regional training-teaching hospitals into government-owned and controlled corporations,” Bernadas said.

These bills seek to improve the delivery of public health care in the country, he added.

Bernadas is now the DOH director in Region 8, based in Tacloban City, Leyte. MindaNews tried but failed to contact Emiliano Galban, spokesperson of DOH-10, for comments.

“This is not privatization. This is to improve participation in governance and transparency in operations through the creation of hospital governing boards,” Bernadas said.

In a text message on Friday, NOP convenor and Bayan deputy secretary Antonio Pasco said that HB 6069 and SB 3130 are actually part of the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership economic policy that will rake in “profit for few corporations at the expense of the marginalized sectors.”

“Our protest last Thursday was just the beginning. We will sustain our protest actions and [we] expect bigger mass mobilization [from] our member-sectoral organizations,” Pasco said.

In a statement, NOP warned that 26 government-run hospitals across the country, including NMMC, face the prospects of privatization.

For her part, Rhodora Bulosan, of Gabriela Northern Mindanao, claimed that the Aquino administration failed to follow the public health spending allocation recommended by the World Health Organization.

“PNoy (President Aquino) allocated only P42.76 billion while the World Health Organization recommended an allocation for public health spending at P487 billion. The Aquino administration should follow this recommendation since our country is a member-state,” she said. (Cong B. Corrales/MindaNews)