HUNDREDS of Cebu City residents availing themselves of free medicines from City Hall have been refused since last Thursday, after City Hall’s P49-million funding for the medical program ran out.

Councilor Jose Daluz III, whose office has been facilitating the approval of the requests, said yesterday they are suspending

the release of medicines until fund sources for the program can be finalized.

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“Our funds were depleted. We can’t do anything because the pharmacies will no longer release medicines until they’re sure funds are available, because they know we are running out of funds. Nahadlok na sila na dili sila mabayran (They’re worried they might not get paid),” Daluz told Sun.Star Cebu.

To ensure the medical assistance can resume immediately, he is proposing to include P30 million for the medical program in the next supplemental budget (SB).

“This is only temporary. We are waiting for the funds to be replenished. Maybe by next week we can assure them that funds are available… Luoy kaayo ang mga tawo, daghan na tag nabalibaran pero ato silang gipasabot na mobalik ra ni. Sobra pa sa 100 atong nabalibaran, daghan na gyud since gahapon pa (We feel so sorry for the over 100 people we’ve had to turn away, since Thursday. But we made them understand the aid will resume),” he said yesterday.

He said they may be able to convince the owners to release the medicines once the funding sources are identified and finalized, without necessarily waiting for the actual release of the funds.

Hospital

Some city officials are now talking to the owners of Pro-Poor Pharmacy, Dominic Pharmacy, Del Pharmacy and the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center’s (VSMMC) pharmacy for the resumption of the medical program next week, when they finalize the SB.

In VSMMC’s case, Daluz said he was told by some patients the government hospital has not accepted for admission the Cebu City residents who are availing themselves of the City’s hospitalization assistance.

In August last year, the City entered into an agreement with VSMMC to accept the City’s medical program beneficiaries.

The City will shoulder the first P25,000 of the patient’s bill.

However, Daluz said he was told the City already used up the P3-million deposit it made with the hospital.

As of last week, the City’s total bill was P4.7 million, which he said is the reason the City’s beneficiaries have been refused.

Doleout

Then mayor Tomas Osmeña offered the free medicines and hospitalization to the City’s residents last year, saying the City can afford it now that it is earning from the South Road Properties (SRP).

But their opponents in the May 2010 election said the dole-out is just part of the mayor’s vote-buying spree.

Daluz, chairman of the City Council’s committee on budget and finance, said he is sure the medical assistance will resume soon, especially since Mayor Michael Rama is committed to continue the program.

Under the program, certified residents of the city are entitled to up to P5,000 worth of medicines after submitting the

requirements to the office of Daluz for the south district, and Councilor Augustus Pe Jr. for the north district.

Their offices will then issue a letter of authority indicating the medicines they can get, which the beneficiary can claim from any of the four accredited pharmacies implementing the City’s program.

When before a thick crowd of applicants would gather in the alleys leading to the councilor’s offices, yesterday the halls were empty.

“The pharmacies stopped releasing yesterday. We really did not expect that so many would avail themselves of this, so we set aside only P49 million since October. Then when election came, we could not fund it anymore because of the ban,” Daluz explained, when asked why the City was not able to foresee the shortage.

Claims

Marivic Alolod, who is in charge of the approval of the requests for medicines, said that for now, they will continue to accept the requests so they can begin processing them.

They are also processing the claims of the pharmacy owners, which now amount to at least P20 million, so the unpaid accounts can be settled.

She assured that there are funds for the payment of the medicines released in the previous months, but they still have to submit the documents and the bills to the concerned City Hall offices.

“Gidawat gihapon namo for processing but dili pa nila makuha ang tambal. By next week ug ma finalize na sa mayor ang availability sa funds, hopefully we can resume the releasing of the medicines,” Alolod added.