The Department of Health (DOH) has failed to start, complete or use P909 million worth of infrastructure projects, thus depriving many Filipinos access to better health care, according to the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
The Commission on Audit (COA) said the projects are in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Region VI (Western Visayas), Region IX (Zamboanga Peninsula), Region X (Northern Mindanao) and Region XII (Soccsksargen) and Region XIII (Caraga).
COA cited failure of contractors to meet construction deadlines and structural defects that were identified by inspectors.
“The DOH should have done something about this. They should have monitored the projects and ensured the completion of these projects considering that government funds are involved,” Joey Salgado, head of the Office of the Vice President Media Affairs, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Salgado noted that a COA 2014 report on the Health department showed that infrastructure projects worth P836,038,564.68 of eight DOH Regional Offices were not completed or even started within the specified contract time as of December 31, 2014.
Also, the commission said, eight health facilities with a total worth of P72.983 million were not utilized despite their completion.
Salgado said the Vice President has always upheld that health programs for Filipinos should be given priority.
Binay noted in his True State of the Nation Address on August 3 that six of 10 Filipinos died without getting the medical attention they needed.
The provinces where construction of facilities has not started are Palawan, Agusan del Sur and Dinagat Island.
The regions with infrastructure projects that have not been completed within the contract time include CAR, Region VI, Region IX, Region X, Region XII and Region XIII.
The regions that have completed facilities but remain unutilized are Region IV-B (Mimaropa), Region VI and Region VII (Central Visayas).
COA itself said in its 2014 report, “The primary consideration of the government for entering into a contract is the timely completion of the infrastructure projects so that the intended benefits may be achieved. The contracting parties are bound to adhere faithfully to agreed terms and conditions of the contract.”
It also cited DOH Department Order 2008-0162 dated July 7, 2008 that provides guidelines and procedures for implementation of the Government Hospital Upgrading Project under CY 2008 Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) Funds of the department.
The HFEP program is aimed at supporting one of the DOH’s strategic approaches to improve “delivery of basic, essential, as well as specialized health services through the rationalization and critical upgrading of health facilities nationwide.”
This includes “parallel revitalization of primary health care facilities and the rationalization of the various levels of hospitals” to decongest hospitals and ensure primary health care delivery and strengthen capabilities and potentials of health facilities to make basic and essential health care accessible and available to as many Filipinos as possible.”
Salgado said the Vice President believes in preventive health care, thus the need to provide facilities for this.
Sadly, however, he added, the DOH failed to provide such parallel and supportive infrastructure for health care for the Filipinos based on the COA report.
The commission reported that the construction of the Ifugao General Hospital (Phase I and II) in the Cordillera Administrative Region with a contract price of P132,567,189.42 was not completed as of December 31, 2014 because “analysis /evaluation of identified structural works defect in slabs and beams for Phase I and II.”
In Region VI, the RO (Regional Office)-Various LGU health facilities under the HFEP with contract price of P124,150,000 was not completed because of “lapses in planning, supervision, monitoring and coordination by and between the DOH-Region VI and recipient LGUs,” COA said.
Also in Western Visayas Sanitarium, construction of pediatrics ward and multi-purpose building with contract price of P4,250,000 suffered a delay in implementation because of “lapses of planning.”
The Western Visayas Medical Center, for its rehabilitation of service wards and the central supply unit with contract price of P85,203,888.88, was not finished because of “issuance of suspension orders for the rehabilitation of 14 service wards and the central supply unit due to pending transfer areas of occupancy of patients inhabiting the area for development,” COA said.
It added that in Region IX, the RO’s HFEP projects with a total contract price of P30,498,520 failed to “undertake the necessary process for the procurement of HFEP projects which resulted in delays in the completion of various infrastructure projects.”
The Mindanao Central Sanitarium of Region IX project with a contract price of P20,000,000 for the design and build scheme-construction of the MCS Psychiatric Ward was not finished for “lack of coordination between the Regional Office and National Center for Health and Facility Development (NCHFD) during the planning stage and slow pace of work due to a minimal number of laborers working at the project site; and unavailability of the required equipment and materials,” COA said.
Also, various infrastructure projects for the Zamboanga City Medical Center with a total contract price of P249,559,306.73 remained unfinished because of “management‘s [DOH] failure to implement immediate measures and actions to prevent the incurrence of negative slippage by the contractors,” it added.
In Region X Regional Office, newly built birthing homes worth P46,796,000 were not completed because the “facilities could not pass the licensing requirements of DOH,” the commission said.
In Region XII, the Polomolok Municipal Hospital’s expansion worth P7,810,234.58 is still ongoing.
“The contractor already incurred delay in its implementation against the target completion date of January 21, 2015,” COA said.
Also in Region XIII, various projects worth P64,251,695.06 were not finished because of “the deficiencies per punch lists were not rectified by the concerned contractors; no water or electric connection,” COA noted.
Also not completed are projects for four hospitals in Region XIII.
The hospitals are Bayugan Community Hospital (outpatient department (OPD) and operating room (OR) wards complex); Butuan Medical Center (renovation of ICU, emergency room, and ISO building); Dinagat District Hospital (repair and renovation); and Adella Serra Ty Memorial Medical Center’s (ASTMMC) (construction of a three-story OPD building with covered walk and slope protection).
The projects that have not started are the expansion of the Roxas Medicare Hospital in Palawan with contract price of P6,000,000 because of the issue on the location of the construction site; the construction of a birthing facility in Agusan del Sur’s New Tubigon Barangay Health Station in Sibagat, which should have started 2011 with contract price of P995,118.17; and the construction of a new birthing facility in Dinagat Island’s Cagdianao Regional Hospital Unit with a contract price of P2,149,490.10.
Salgado said the construction of the birthing facility in the New Tubigon Barangay Health Station in Sibagat should have been finished by now since this was awarded in 2011.
“Still no accomplishment, the project was terminated and downloaded to LGU thru Memorandum Of Agreement for implementation,” COA noted.
“There appears to be no urgency on the part of DOH regional offices to finish construction of infrastructure projects that could have helped thousands of Filipinos in eight regions,” Salgado said.
“The funds are available but the projects did not push through. Residents in said regions were stripped of their access to important health facilities for their health care,” he added.
Salgado said COA reported the project in Dinagat Island had “the Notice To Proceed (NTP) on February 21, 2013 with a completion date of June 22, 2013 but as of March 2015, the works were not yet started by the contractor.
“No action was taken by the DOH-RO relative to this delayed construction for almost 2 years,” COA said.
In its report, it noted that these projects that have not started as of December 31, 2014 amounted to P9,144,608.27.
COA also reported eight infrastructure projects under HFEP worth P72,983,042.20 were not used.
These are, among others, the Ramon Legaspi Memorial Hospital in Makato, Aklan with contract price of P6,000,000 because of lack of funds to hire doctors and for operational expenses, the Regional Health Units in Guimaras worth P5,500,000 for lack of training for LGU end-user personnel and the lack of accreditation of the health facility as birthing clinics; and Sum-ag Barangay Health Station in Bacolod City, which was built in an open space inside a subdivision that the residents did not support.
Salgado said the Vice President has vowed to ensure that access to healthcare is made accessible to the poor, a feat that Binay–a former mayor of Makati City (Metro Manila)–was able to do in the city that had debts when he took over as officer-in-charge after the EDSA People Power Revolt in 1986.
“Despite increases in the public health budget in recent years, millions of Filipinos, particularly the poor and the destitute, do not have access to even the most basic health care. The health care system is fragmented and the public health workforce is diminishing in the face of increasing demand for health services,” the Vice President noted.
Binay vowed to improve health services in the country and ensure that Filipinos, especially the poor and marginalized, can avail of basic health services.