A National University Hospital and national referral hospital like Philippine General Hospital (PGH) is among the biggest COVID-19 referral centers in the country. Yet, it will suffer a P1.2 billion budget cut in the proposed 2022 National Expenditure Program (NEP).
“Hindi namin tatanggapin na mayroong budget cut sa Philippine General Hospital,” said All UP Workers Union (AUPWU) – Manila president Karen Mae Faurillo.
Faurillo said that cutting the hospital’s budget would also mean cutting its lifeblood.
A P130-million cut in the Maintenance and Other Operating Expense (MOOE) and a zero-allocation on Capital Outlay (CO) budget are what the PGH is set to endure in the year 2022.
Faurillo discussed that the cuts in MOOE budget would mean a tighter budget for repairs and maintenance in hospital operations along with the basic utilities like electricity and water, and laboratory and diagnostic procedures. She added that it would greatly affect PGH’s capacity to provide quality healthcare services, especially to its unprivileged patients.
On the other hand, a zero budget for CO would mean no funds to procure or build additional infrastructure, facilities, and equipment like mechanical ventilators and high flow machines.
The PGH was hit by fire last May 16. The fire caused an estimated P200-million damage.
“Bahagi po ng operating room complex ang nasunog kaya naman malaking-malaki ang pangangailangan ng PGH para sa capital outlay upang mapahusay ang fire protection system, makabili ng makabagong kagamitan, at matustusan ang equipment na kailangan ng mga pasyente,” Faurillo said.
Sufficient or additional allotments in the CO would expand PGH services for patients in need of urgent medical attention, especially in this time of the pandemic.
Understaffing hounds PGH
Faurillo said that PGH has again increased its bed capacity from 230 to 320 beds to accommodate more COVID-19 patients. It has also opened a 40-bed isolation facility for COVID-19.
However, increasing bed capacity and facility would also mean that additional health personnel must be added to operate on additional work areas.
She shared the nurse-to-patient ratio in COVID wards is “horrifying, with one nurse to 12 patients. There is also 1-2 nursing attendants and a utility worker for 35 patients. These nurses are the ones taking care of COVID-19 patients on high flow oxygen, as well as sedated and intubated patients. This is way past the ideal nurse-to-patient ratio of 1 to 3, Faurillo said.
Unfair and unjust treatment of health care workers
Aside from the hospital budget cut, adding to health workers’ exhaustion is the non-provision of their COVID-19 benefits.
Their Special Risk Allowance or SRA, the Active Hazard Duty Pay or AHDP, and meals, accommodation and transportation or MAT allowance are not included in the 2022 proposed health budget. Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the agency was banking on the passage of the third COVID-19 response law—Bayanihan 3—to fund health workers’ benefits in 2022.
“This is unfair and unjust as it should be continuously provided until the state of national emergency is in place,” said AUPWU-Manila vice president Benjamin D.L. Santos.
Faurillo said that if the government is concerned and serious to uphold its responsibility to protect and safeguard the health of the Filipino people, a P2-trillion health budget should be provided.
The AUPWU-Manila also laid their 6-point demands:
1.) Provide P10 billion for the 2022 budget for PGH
2.) No to MOOE cut and double PGH MOOE budget
3.) Provide P1 billion capital outlay for PGH
4.) Hire additional 1,000 health personnel with plantilla positions
5.) Continuous provision of COVID-19 benefits until a state of national emergency is in place
6.) Provide P1 billion budget for indigent patients