Lacson questions PhilHealth COVID-19 fund release to non-COVID hospitals

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MANILA – Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday questioned PhilHealth's release of funds to "favored hospitals" and other medical facilities not caring for COVID-19 patients, instead of prioritizing hospitals caring for coronavirus cases. 

Lacson cited the agency's release of some P226 million to freestanding dialysis centers and P4.8 million to maternity care package providers under its interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM).

"Kaya nauubusan ng pera ang PhilHealth kung saan-saan niyo ginagastos. Meron kayong favorite hospitals… Can you explain, 'yung iba ang tagal-tagal nag-a-apply, nagre-request ng release ng pondo?" he said during the Senate investigation into alleged corruption in the agency.

(That's why PhilHealth lacks funds, you spend it on anything. You have your favorite hospitals. Can you explain why others request for so long for the release of funds?)

PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales said he released the funds to dialysis centers and other non-COVID facilities following their appeal.

"Nilapitan ho kami ng necrology association and they appealed to us because they’re turning away patients because they’re short of funds and sabi nila many of their patients were already dying. There were several appeals to us," he said.

(The necrology association appealed to us because they’re turning away patients because they’re short of funds and they said many of their patients were already dying.)

PhilHealth senior vice president Rodolfo del Rosario said the IRM was "a financial assistance to all hospitals and healthcare providers that will need help in this time of pandemic."

"We agreed na dapat po kasama sila kasi 'yun atin pong nagda-dialysis hindi po sila basta-basta pwede po pumunta sa mga ospital. Iniiwasan ang mga ospital, the dialysis centers and other clinics need support from PhilHealth," he said.

(We agreed that dialysis patients should be included because they cannot just go to hospitals, they avoid these.)

"Marami nga pong nagsara na dialysis centers dahil hindi nila matugunan ang kanilang financing."

(Many dialysis centers have closed because they cannot afford their financing.)

Lacson also cited hospitals in Quezon City's 2nd district that applied and received P89 million and P53 million each on the same date.

"Parehong pareho ang date ng MOA (memorandum of agreement) at release, hindi ba sindikato 'yan?" he asked Del Rosario.

(They have the same date of MOA and release, isn't that a syndicate?)

"Magaling po ang director ng NCR," Del Rosario answered.

(The regional director of NCR is good.)

"Magaling kayo magrelease ng pondo sa gusto niyo release-an. That’s the point," Lacson said.

(You're good in releasing funds to facilities you want. That's the point.)


Dr. Susan Mercado, expert panel member of PhilHealth's board, said the agency should prioritize big hospitals "imploding with COVID-19" patients that do not have the time to apply for IRM contracts.

She said that in a meeting last March 31, the board called the attention of management "about prioritizing hospitals and to follow the epidemic." 

"Nung panahon na 'yun, malinaw na malinaw na namamatay na ang mga dito sa NCR, nagkakasakit ang healthcare workers. Ang napa-prioritize kung sino ang nauuna magbigay ng kontrata," she said.

(During that time, it was clear many were dying and getting sick in Metro Manila and healthworkers were getting sick. The agency prioritized whoever can give their contract first.)

"Sa tindi po ng sitwasyon nung panahon na 'yun, yung busy na ospital wala po silang time gumawa ng kontrata para sa COVID…The point of IRM was to support hospitals that were already imploding because of COVID."

(During the surge of cases, busy hospitals do not have the time to make contracts.)

The agency as of July 31 has released some P14.97 billion, of which 29 percent was given to hospitals in Metro Manila according to PhilHealth senior vice president Renato Limsiaco. Half or P7.458 million were released to tertiary hospitals, he added.

The Philippines as of Monday reported 106,330 cases of COVID-19, with 65,821 recoveries and 2,104 deaths.

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