No to privatization

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Sunday, February 9, 2014


I HAVE a very special place in my heart for the National Orthopedic Hospital on Del Monte Ave. in Quezon City. It’s where I had an operation for my scoliosis more than three decades ago. I had to stop school for a year and quit my radio work since I was confined in that hospital for almost three months.

I was already in radio when I took up mass communication at the Ateneo de Zamboanga. I was a working student. Had I not undergone surgery, I would have been paralyzed today.

My spinal cord was in an abnormal condition and my left foot was getting thin due to poor blood circulation. I could no longer stand up, even for five minutes, on my left foot. My left knee would collapse.

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With the financial aid of my elder sister who was then a college professor in Iloilo and with proceeds from the sale of our carabao, I was brought to Manila for immediate operation. A team of orthopedic doctors headed by Dr. Antonio Acosta operated on me and it was successful. Some orthopedic doctors based in Cebu know Dr. Acosta because they underwent their internship with him. I was back in good shape. Before my ailment, I used to play basketball and baseball, which are popular sports in Zamboanga City.
But I had to abandon these kinds of physical sports and instead concentrated on
“romantic wrestling.”

Why I am reminiscing about this? The National Government, through the Department of Health, has started to privatize several public hospitals throughout the country that might include the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center. The government started with the National Orthopedic Hospital. The move is being opposed by some sectors, including some politicians, particularly Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel Jr.

Pimentel said the move will deny poor and indigent patients of their medical and hospital needs and also threaten the jobs of public hospital workers.

I will not give weight to the status of public hospital workers who might be displaced because they might be absorbed once private management takes over.

But where will poor and indigent patients go once public hospitals are privatized? In a private hospital you cannot be admitted without making an advanced payment?

I just want to share my recent experience. My 23-year-old son was confined in a private hospital due to severe fever caused by tonsillitis. I was forced to use my credit card for the deposit because he could not be admitted if I make one. How much was the deposit? P16,000.00. Whew! When he was discharged, the bill ran up to the thousands. It was a good thing there was a little deduction because of the Philhealth coverage and a discount from the hospital because my son is a student of the university that also manages the hospital. Mahirap magkasakit. Makapangawot ka sa dili katol.

I even complained even though I receive a substantial salary from my private employment. How much more those people who have no legitimate income? Where will they go? Some patients will run to media outlets and foundations to ask for financial help because even public hospitals are not free, especially when it comes to medicines.

When former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña brought up the idea of privatizing the Cebu City Medical Center because of its dismal performance, I called the move crazy. In justifying his move, Tomas said the City’s hospitalization program will be channeled to private hospitals. He said he would put up funds in private hospitals for indigent patients, or P25,000 per patient. Susmaryosep. That amount will only last two days in a private hospital even if the patient is admitted in the ward. The cost of medicines in private hospitals is higher than in public hospitals.

I agree with Balamban Mayor Ace Binghay when he said the purpose of a public hospital is not to make a profit but to serve the public. The government should subsidize a public hospital even if it’s not making money since it is its obligation to provide affordable health care to the public.

When our politicians submitted themselves to the electorate during election, one of their campaign promises was to provide for the people’s health and medical needs. Now that they are in power, they want to deny the people access to basic services by privatizing government hospitals?

Instead of selling public hospitals to the private sector, why can’t the government improve services by putting more resources on public hospitals? Where do our taxes go? I smell something fishy in this government move. Is this what the P-Noy administration calls “matuwid na daan”?

(bobby.nalzaro@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 10, 2014.

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