Vice President Jejomar Binay on Thursday lamented the state of health care in the Philippines, claiming the Aquino administration used funds for public health to bribe its allies.
In a speech during the 83rd Annual National Convention of the Philippine Health Workers Association, the Vice President recalled how the Aquino administration cut back on the budgets of the Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and Philippine Heart Center by P970.6 million.
“This administration has been a tightwad in spending for necessary services, so much so that the World Bank has commented that our growth has been hampered by government’s underspending in public works and social services,” Binay said.
“But there is a lot of money. The money was unfortunately used to bribe politicians so the ruling party could get rid of their political enemies,” he added.
The money, the Vice President alleged, was used to fund programs headed by the administration’s “leaders and friends,” which included the “junket” for the hearing of the Philippines’ case against China at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos) in The Hague.
While three members of the delegation presented before the tribunal, more than 35 high-ranking officials flew to The Hague in business class and were given first-class hotel accommodation.
Binay also questioned the administration’s “insistence” on increasing the budget of its “pet project,” the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) while spending less on health care.
According to Binay, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that five percent of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) must be spent on health care.
“We are below this standard, with the government concentrating on the CCT,” he said.
“Isa nga itong malaking palaisipan sa akin, binibigyan ng pantawid ang mga mahihirap para pumunta sa health center, pero hindi naman pinopondohan nang maayos ang health center. Paanong makatutulong ang programang ito na mapabuti ang kalusugan ng mga mahihirap? (This has been a puzzle to me. The poor are being urged to go to health centers which have not been receiving enough funds)” he added.
He said while there are significant increases in public health budget, many Filipinos are still unable to access basic health services.
Also, a third of the annual budget increase of the Department of Health goes to PhilHealth.
Although Filipinos have PhilHealth cards, they won’t be accommodated in government hospitals which lack health workers.
Binay said there are only 17 hospital beds and three public health workers for every 10,000 sick Filipinos.
“Hindi po problema ang pera. Ang kailangan ay isang gobyernong maka¬pagbibigay ng tunay at mabilis na ser¬bisyo sa mamamayan. Ang kailangan ay isang mapagkalingang gobyernong nakaiintindi ng totoong daing ng sambayanan (Money is not the problem. What we need is a government that will give speedy service to the people, a caring government that understands the need of the people),” he added.
Binay outlined his plan on how to improve the Philippine health¬care system. He pledged to provide easy access to quality healthcare just like what is provided to the residents of Makati City.
He said the city government built the Ospital ng Makati, where residents get free check-up, hospitalization and medicines.
He also moved to strengthen the capacity of the local government unit to deliver health services.
According to Binay, special attention must be given to local government units in rural areas where funding is limited and where poverty incidence is at its highest.
“Ayon sa isang pag-aaral ng Philippine Institute for Development Studies [PIDS], napako na sa 2,300 ang bilang ng rural health units. We must therefore improve health planning and service expansion to these areas, including those caught in conflict,” he added.
Binay said he plans to equitably spend the health budget to increase hospital facilities, boost hospital staff and improve their skills.
He also aims to increase the salary and benefits of healthcare professionals working in government especially those working in the provinces.
“Sisikapin nating madagdagan ang hospital beds ng 100,000 sa unang da¬la¬-wang taon ng aking adminis¬trasyon lalo na at ito ang kinakaila¬ngan para maging medical tourism destination ang ating bansa. Maka¬aasa ang ating mga duktor at public health workers ng karag¬dagang taas ng sahod at palalawigin natin ang mga benepisyo,” he said.
“This is the health program we offer our people. It supports our broad goal to attain inclusive and sustainable growth through intensive jobs-creation activities and expanded social services,” he added.