Mothers seek return of free medical services in Manila hospitals

“The local government should spare medical services from income-generating measures. Access to health service is a right.” – Gabriela Women’s Partylist

BY ANNE EDNALYN DELA CRUZ
Bulatlat.com

The women’s group Gabriela, together with mothers from different parts of Manila, flocked to the Ospital ng Tondo on Monday, July 21, to demand the return of free health services in public hospitals in the city.

The mothers and other residents of the city have been protesting the implementation of Manila Ordinance 8331 or the Omnibus Revenue Code of the City of Manila, which requires hospital patients, including Manila residents, to pay corresponding fees. Their series of protest started on June 24, the celebration of Manila Day.

Gabriela in a picket in front of Ospital ng Tondo (Photo by Anne  Ednalyn Dela Cruz / Bulatlat.com)
Gabriela in a picket in front of Ospital ng Tondo (Photo by Anne Ednalyn Dela Cruz / Bulatlat.com)

The ordinance, which was recommended by the Commission on Audit (COA) to the local government of Manila, was implemented in March. It mandated the collection of fees in six Manila-owned hospitals. Among the hospitals covered by the ordinance are: Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center, Ospital ng Tondo, Justice Abad Santos General Hospital, Ospital ng Sampaloc, Ospital ng Maynila, and Santa Ana Hospital.

Gabriela Manila chapter vice-chair Rose Bihag said the local government of Manila lied when it assured Manileños that only minimal fees will be collected and that poor residents will still enjoy free access to medical services.

In the protest, Manila resident Arlene Damian, 51, a housewife and mother of a 10-year-old special child, shared that the new city ordinance practically denied her indigent family’s access to health services. She said the monthly check-up of her child used to be free and they were even given medicine. Since the ordinance was implemented, she said, she could barely afford to bring her child to the hospital for check-up.

Earlier reports said that Manila-owned hospitals implemented a bracketing system in giving discounts to patients. Patients categorized in bracket A or B get a 10-percent discount, while patients in bracket C get 25 to 75-percent discount. Only patients under bracket D enjoy the free medical service.

In addition to this, Manila hospitals also started collecting the following fees: doctors’ fee, emergency fee at P200, outpatient fee at P100, ultrasound from P300 to P3,000, dialysis at P1,800 per session, physical therapy at P500 per session, CT scan from P2,500 to P7,000, and X-ray at P60 with additional P40 for every film.

Meanwhile, Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Representative Emmi de Jesus supports the call of mothers and other Manila residents to repeal or amend the Ordinance 8331. De Jesus said in a statement that the local government should not include health services in their income-generating measures, as it is basic human right.

“The local government should spare medical services from income-generating measures. Access to health service is a right. The budget allotted to Tondo General Hospital (or any other Manila-owned hospitals) is the responsibility of the national government. We should ensure that there will be sufficient budget allotted to LGU hospitals,” De Jesus said.

She added that the collection of fees of LGU hospitals is a direct result of the national policy to promote Public-Private Partnership programs including budget cuts in the national health budget and the devolution of health services.

De Jesus, along with GWP Representative Luz Ilagan, filed House Resolution 809 ordering the Committee on Health to compel the Departments of Health, Budget and Management, and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to bare its plans for Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital and other public hospitals.

Meanwhile, Gabriela and Manila residents will continue to conduct protest actions calling for the restoration of free medical services. On July 23, they will launch a run from Blumentritt to the office of the Department of Health. ()

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