MEMBERS of Cagayan de Oro City Council minority bloc reminded Tuesday Mayor Constantino Jaraula about the tale of a storied, run down building at the city-run health care facility.
The building, which stood useless for over a decade now, has been languishing there since the late 90s, and the purported lack of water supply has nothing to do with its being “useless”, the council said.
“This administration will stop at nothing just to invent incredible alibis in covering its utter failure in providing decent health care to the poor, which is only among the detrimental effects of its skewed fiscal priorities,” said opposition Councilor Teodulfo Lao.
Lao was reacting to a statement by Jaraula, who said lack of water supply has hampered the construction of the partially completed, four-storey annex building of the JR Borja General Hospital.
Jaraula has blamed the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) for allegedly delivering only 50 percent of the water requirement of the City Hall.
“How can a hospital operate without water?” Jaraula said during Monday’s ocular inspection of the building.
He said the local government has been paying its water bill “in good faith” but the COWD has not been good at meeting its obligations.
“We have to make it a point that the amount paid by the City Government was not put inside the pocket of certain persons. Otherwise, the water district will be held liable for the insufficiency of water supply,” the mayor said, as he called on the City Council to conduct an inquiry on COWD officials.
The COWD, however, said there is no shortage of water supply in the hospital.
“No such thing. We have plenty of water to supply City Hall and all its departments, including the city hospital in Barangay Carmen,” said Engineer Bievenido Batar, COWD assistant general manager.
What the dilapidated hospital building lacks, said Batar, were “service lines that will carry the water to the intended recipient.”
Batar explained that City Hall hasn’t applied for new service lines for the building since it was built over a decade ago.
In addition, he said the old pipes installed during its construction aren’t capable of taking in the necessary volume of water needed for the building’s use.
“If I can recall it right, the old service lines only measured three-fourths inch. For a building like that, we need pipes that are 2-inches in diameter,” the COWD official said.
Councilor Roger Abaday, another minority councilor, said he finds Batar’s explanation more “logical and truthful than the mayor’s alibis.”
“So it’s not about water and other such alibis. It’s about neglect. They’ve neglected the dilapidated state of the hospital, and no excuse—no matter how truthful it may sound—can hide this,” said Abaday.
Costing P10 million, the hospital building, which was capable of accommodating 400 beds, was donated by Senator Aquilino Pimentel.
The City Hall, then led by Mayor Vicente Emano who is now the vice mayor, was unable to shell out money as counterpart necessary to make the building operational.
Last year, the Department of Health (DOH) donated some P22 million to complete the building.
Jaraula said the DOH fund has made it possible for at least 100 beds on the second and third levels of the building to be “ready for occupancy” -- until the purported water supply problem was discovered.
Lao said an investigation must be conducted to determine why the building has not been used despite the DOH-funded improvement.
“Is this really because of the alleged water supply shortage, which we think is too laughable an alibi, or is it that City Hall has no money for the hospital facilities to equip the new building, as we have suspected all along?” the councilor said.
City Hall critics have often used as example the poorly-equipped JR Borja General Hospital in putting a spotlight to the hundreds of millions that the local government has poured into public markets and other big ticket infrastructure project.
Minority councilors said these “spendings” smack of unreasonable extravagance at the expense of basic services, like health. They also pointed out that City Hall has, in several years now, allocated more for debt servicing than for the city-run hospital.
This year, City Hall has set aside PP225 million for its debt obligations. The city-run hospital is allocated P57.7.2 million but the bulk of it, some P37 million, will go to the salary of its personnel.