An organization of doctors and health professionals has slammed the proposed health budget for 2009, saying that the increase will benefit foreign medical tourists and not Filipino patients.
In a statement, the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) said, “The much-ballyhooed increase in the Department of Health (DOH) budget for 2009 is actually a continuing and growing investment in government-sponsored medical tourism.”
Based on the proposed budget, the Department of Health (DoH) will get P27.8 billion ($583.86 million based on exchange rate of US$1=P47.614). The proposal is 36.9 percent higher than this year’s allocation.
The group led a protest in front of the House of Representatives this morning.
Dr. Geneve Rivera, HEAD secretary general, noted that while the DOH budget for Health Facilities Enhancement Program increases, public hospitals and government-run health facilities ‘continue to wallow in a state of disrepair and lack of adequate facilities.’
Pegged at P2.3 billion ($48.30 million), the allocation for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program is the highest in the DOH budget. The group noted that the amount is even more than the allotment for the provision of potable water, P1.5 billion ($31.50 million) and the Tuberculosis Control Program, P1.3 billion ($27.30 million).
Rivera further said that specialty hospitals earmarked for integration as the Philippine Center for Specialized Healthcare in line with the government’s medical tourism program will also get the more ‘substantial budget increases.’
The Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) will get an additional P157.6 million ($3.31 million); National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), P185 million ($3.38 million); Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC), P236 million ($4.96 million) ; and, Philippine Heart Center (PHC), P185 million ($3.38 million).
She said that NKTI and PHC are already participants in this medical tourism program.
The group insisted that if the Arroyo government can allocate such an amount to specialty hospitals, it should also give an equal if not higher increase to medical centers that cater to the general public and indigent Filipinos.
Meanwhile, the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, the flagship hospital of the DOH, Rivera said, will only receive P359 million ($7.54 million) for its 2009 budget, without any substantial increase.
“The Arroyo government and the DOH should explain their skewed priorities in terms of health. They should explain why healthcare is being transformed into a business venture and why there is money for foreign medical tourists but none for the health and lives of ordinary Filipinos,” said Rivera.