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An ‘unhealthy’ proposal: Aquino to cut budget for health services

philippine-hospitalIn his budget message for 2011, Aquino boasted of a spending based on “reform” and one that has “bias to the poor and vulnerable.” However, this claim is difficult to understand when the allocation for public health, an important social service, is being reduced.

Despite the rising cases of dengue and other infectious diseases, and the horror tales of long lines, lack of medicines, lack of beds and rooms, and shortage of doctors and nurses and in our public hospitals, the Aquino government is slashing the health budget for 2011.

In the budget proposal submitted by Aquino to Congress, the allocation for health is slashed by 3.5%, from the P 40.0 billion adjusted allocation in 2010 to only P 38.627 billion for 2011. The amount represents only 2.35% of the entire national government budget, further reduced from only 2.6% last year.

According to the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), the combined budget for the 12 major DOH hospitals is decreased dramatically. Maintainance and other operating expenses (MOOE) allocation for these hospitals is cut by P70.8 million, from P837.79 million in 2010 to P766.99M in 2011. Despite the lack of hospitals and facilities, there is no more allotment for capital outlay in the 2011 budget, from P247.5 million in 2010.

Only P0.70 for every Filipino

Budget for the 55 public hospitals nationwide is also decreased by P363.7 million, from P5.156 billion in 2010 to P4.792 billion in 2011. Subsidy to indigent patients for confinement or use of specialized equipment is reduced by P20 million, cut by half from P36 million to P16 million. Allotment for the specialty hospitals like the Lung Center, NKTI, PCMC, Heart Center, and PITAHC is likewise decreased by P970.6 million.

Other health service programs like the operations for Centers for Health and Development and Family Health including Family Planning is also reduced by P273 million, and P503 million, respectively.

Last year, the government spent only P252.49 per Filipino per year or a ridiculously low P0.70 per day.

At least P90 billion needed

According to HEAD, a “realistic” health budget should be passed addressing the urgent health needs of the people. Especially now, with the rising incidences of dengue and deteriorating conditions of hospitals the health workers are calling for a re-allocation of funds to health services.

They estimate that at least P90 billion is needed to “immediately remedy the most pressing health problems” and “pave the way” for long-term solutions.

HEAD proposes that at least P40 billion should be allotted for improving the public healthcare delivery system, improve and upgrade their equipment, medical supplies, and pharmacies. Of which, all 12 DOH retained hospitals should each get P 1 billion and all of 55 public hospitals nationwide needs an average of P500 million.

The health sector also needs around P25 billion fund health human resource maintenance and development. P 10 billion is needed for the full implementation of the Nursing Act of 2002 and the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, P 7 billion for proposed increase in salaries of government physicians, nurses and other health personnel.

Government should also allot P 8 billion for opening of additional tenured positions for 3,000 doctors, 8,000 nurses, and other health personnel in government hospitals and healthcare centers, including barangay health workers.

Meanwhile, at least P25 billion is needed for preventive and public health programs.

Rechannel funds to health service

HEAD clarifies that their alternative budget proposal is not wishful thinking neither it is an impossible dream. In fact the World Health Organization recommends an even bigger amount which is 5% of a country’s gross national product (GNP) or around P440 billion.

The health sector laments the fact that the current so-called reform budget prioritizes other items over health. There is an increase of P80 billion for debt servicing and more than P10 billion for military spending.

HEAD points out that this shows that there is in fact money that can be allocated. Aside from relignment of funds, there is also an estimated P 170 billion if government eliminates corruption and billions more in unpaid corporate taxes.

People’s health as a government responsibility

It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that no Filipino should ever be deprived of health services because he or she has no money, and that no Filipino should ever succumb to disease simply because there is no healthcare facility nearby. Women should not die of something so natural as pregnancy and child-delivery.

The lack of funds for health services exposes the hypocrisy behind the Aquino administration’s “reform” posture and its promises of change. Slogans and rhetorics are good only when he puts the money where his mouth is.

The health sector and the Filipino people should tell Congress to reject the health budget cuts and push them to take a stand for the people’s interests. Various sectors should take action against the cuts in the allocation for social services and condemn the misprioritization and neglect of the people’s welfare in Aquino’s 2011 government budget.

Article for Blogwatch.ph

Photo: “Filipino Boy with Leprosy” by , c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

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