THE Senate Finance subcommittee F, headed by Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, on Wednesday approved for plenary deliberations the Department of Health’s (DoH) proposed P160.15-billion budget for 2020.
During the hearing, Go expressed his full support for the Health department, but raised concern that the budget allocated for the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law might not be enough to cover all expenditures under it.
“You have a proposed 2020 budget of P67.35 billion in the [National Expenditure Program]. Is this enough for the implementation of the Universal Health Care next year?” Go asked Health department representatives present.
The health officials said, “[W]ith the P67 billion, the department will not be able to execute the full intent of the UHC, as the budget approved is lower than what is proposed.”
The Health department appealed to the senators to increase the budget for the program.
Go said he would ask the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to sit down with the DoH and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
“Gusto ko sana tanungin ang DBM kaso wala dito. Ano rason bakit ‘yung hinihingi, hindi binigay (I want to ask the DBM, but they are not here. I want to ask them why they did not give what you have requested). I will request the DBM to sit down with DoH and PhilHealth to discuss the deficit,” Go said.
Meanwhile, expressing his concern on the need to allocate enough budget based on bed capacities of public hospitals around the country, Go cited the proposed budget for the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City as an example of a public hospital with high bed capacity given minimal increase in its budget.
“VSMMC has the largest bed capacity among DoH hospitals in Region 7 with 1,200 beds, but was only allocated an increase of 3.85 percent in the 2020 budget. While other hospitals with lower bed capacities were allocated with high increases in their budget,” Go said.
“What formula guided the DoH in arriving at the proposed 2020 budget for the operation of VSMMC and other DoH hospitals?” he asked.
According to the DoH, the budget is determined based on the income level of the hospitals.
Go also raised his concern on the decrease in the 2020 budget for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the DoH.
“I am bothered by the decrease in the budget of HFEP for 2020 because I have been visiting hospitals around the country. I have seen the need to assist government hospitals and provide them with equipment and infrastructure,” he said.
“With the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law, we need to ensure that our hospitals are properly equipped, and we should aim to have more barangay (village) health stations and rural health units,” he added.
Go said the program’s low disbursement and utilization rates prompted DBM to decrease its budget.
“The reason why DBM submitted a very low budget for HFEP is DoH’s low disbursement and utilization rate, meaning most projects are not completed. Did the DoH improve now in terms of disbursement? What is your obligation and disbursement rate for the HFEP budget this year?” he asked.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd enumerated several reasons for the HFEP’s low disbursement and utilization rate, including bidding problems, land ownership issues, contractors’ performance, lack of manpower and security issues, among others.
Go urged the Health department to improve its service delivery to hospitals in dire need assistance, particularly in regard to their facilities and infrastructure.