ON reading the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for Republic Act (RA) 10351, or the Sin Tax Reform Law, crafted by a working group that included the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, the Department of Health—sole fund beneficiary—was taken by surprise upon seeing the insertion of UP-PGH as one of the recipients.
This prompted Health Secretary Enrique Ona to cry foul and question the inclusion of UP-PGH before the Department of Finance, which to date has kept mum on the matter.
UP-PGH is the part of the group that crafted the IRR, which also includes representatives from the DOH, academe and health advocates. RA 10351 specifies that the DOH is the sole beneficiary of the sin tax measure. It is estimated that this year, sin tax collections would reach P91 billion.
Ona is asking for the deletion of the provision on UP-PGH as a beneficiary of sin tax collection, and the government hospital having a say in the deployment of health professionals in the entire country.
The sin tax has been collected since last year despite the absence of an IRR, and some quarters are asking where the funds are going.
DOH Undersecretary Janette Garin told The Manila Times that UP-PGH is not attached to DOH but to the Commission on Higher Education, and is thus not qualified to be a recipient of sin tax proceeds.
“PGH is a training hospital which is supervised by UP, a school,” she added.
The inclusion of UP-PGH, she said, in the IRR could complicate the implementation of the entire law.
“While [DOH] is accountable to the fund, part of which is for research, the fund should go to DOH attached agencies specializing in specific diseases such as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Heart Center, Lung Center, and so on,” Garin added.
If UP-PGH would have control over the deployment of graduating physicians and other medical staff in the country’s far-flung areas, it would cause duplication of manpower, she added.
“It means that DOH has to look for new people, when in fact we already have enough people to attend to our patients in our regional and provincial hospitals,” Garin added.
Uses of fund
Rule III, Section 5 of the IRR says: “the funds shall be allocated for research and studies on . . . determining the national workforce requirement for health care, innovations in health systems and service delivery networks that have proven effective in improving health outcomes . . .” and would ask for the “the services and expertise of [UP-PGH] as the premier national university hospital.”
And Section 3 of Rule VI of the IRR provides that “consultations with PGH would be done to set guidelines for the deployment if physicians graduating from training programs in government hospitals for in-service training programs in local government unit [LGU] hospitals that require specialists.”
The same section also stipulates that DOH, in collaboration with UP-PGH and in consultation with LGUs, should “develop an evidence-based Human Resources for Health [HRH] Master Plan.” It would determine the required manpower, which include doctors, nurses and other health professionals, needed in a specific area.
The DOH, Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Agriculture, Department of Budget and Management and Bureau of Internal Revenue are among the implementing agencies of the Sin Tax Reform Law.
Garin stressed that the goals of the sin tax law are: Enrolling underprivileged Filipinos to health insurance offered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.; achieving the health targets of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations; and upgrading, improving and modernizing the country’s hospitals and medical equipment.
Garin suggested two ways for UP-PGH to qualify for the sin tax revenues: meet the DOH and sign a memorandum of agreement; and for UP-PGH to be transformed into a government-owned and -controlled corporation under the Office of the President and DOH.
Garin’s suggestions were well take by Dr. Anthony Leachon, public affairs officer of University of the Philippines-Manila.
In a phone interview with The Times, Leachon said that the expertise of UP-PGH in conducting research and in contributing to the country’s health manpower, as enunciated in the IRR, would be a great help in improving healthcare in the country in terms of research, and deploying the best health professionals.