Wednesday, October 08, 2008

“The 2009 National Health Budget: Investing in Medical Tourism” - HEAD

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD
2/F Doña Anita Bldg, 284 E. Rodriguez Ave., Quezon City
Telefax: (02) 725 4760 Email:

Media Release
08 October 2008

The Arroyo government is investing in health care – but for foreign medical tourists, not for Filipino patients.

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 a study by Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) of past and current national health budgets. HEAD led members of the health sector that trooped to the House of Representatives earlier today to underscore their criticism of the 2009 health budget.

“The DOH budget for Health Facilities Enhancement Program of P180 million in 2007 suddenly became P1.66 billion in 2008, a whooping 822% increase! For 2009, this amount increases even further by 22.29% to P2.03 billion,” according to Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, HEAD secretary-general. “Yet public hospitals and government-run health facilities continue to wallow in a state of disrepair and lack of adequate facilities.”

HEAD notes that among the items highlighted by budget secretary Rolando Andaya in the 2009 national budget, allocation for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program was the highest, even more than the allocation for the provision of potable water (P1.5 billion) and the Tuberculosis Control Program (P1.3 billion).

Even among public hospitals, the more substantial budget increases are for specialty hospitals like the Lung Center of the Philippines (an additional P157.6 million), National Kidney and Transplant Institute (an additional P185 million), Philippine Children’s Medical Center (an additional P236 million), and Philippine Heart Center (an additional P185 million).

“These are the same hospitals earmarked for integration as the Philippine Center for Specialized Healthcare in line with the government’s medical tourism program.” Added Dr. Rivera, “In fact, NKTI and PHC are already participants in this medical tourism program.”

HEAD insists that if the Arroyo gov’t 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.

In contrast to specialty hospitals, the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, the flagship hospital of the DOH, is only getting P359 million for its 2009 budget, without any substantial increase. This is the case for other public hospitals under the DOH.

“The Arroyo gov’t and the DOH should explain their skewed priorities in terms of health.” concluded Dr. Rivera. “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.”###

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera
Secretary-General, 0920 460 3712

Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos
Vice-Chairperson, 0916 214 5724

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