WE’VE been complaining about the poor service at the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC). We’ve also been told that the city hospital is not only mismanaged, it is also grossly underfunded.

But did you know that the City Government spends approximately P100 million annually on a program that provides free hospitalization and medicines for each sick individual who can present a voter’s registration card, an endorsement from the barangay captain or a city councilor or a government physician’s certificate written on a prescription pad?

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If you didn’t, then you’re not alone. The program must be one of the city’s best kept secrets because I haven’t even heard about it until Shawn E.G.P. Espina, a doctor with a conscience, told us about the Cebu Hospitalization and Medications Program (Champ) that allegedly sets aside P25,000 for hospitalization and P5,000 for medicines for each qualified patient.

It is interesting to know who the beneficiaries were and how much were paid to whom in all these years that Champ has been existing. Shawn, however, did not suggest any irregularity in the disbursement of funds. There is hopefully none.

But the former Noy-Mar volunteer believes there is a more effective way of using the funds than merely doling them out.

He suggests that the P100 million that the city allocates for one year of Champ’s operations be used as revolving fund of a health maintenance organization (HMO).

“Through the years, HMOs have acquired the infrastructure (discount schemes, doctors’ schedule of fees, physician networks, computer networks and manpower) to provide the services necessary to render care to their members,” the doctor said in a position paper. He urged the city to engage an HMO that would “insure and manage the health care of the medically underserved” with P100 million as revolving fund.

Espina noted that enrolment in the HMO provides the member access not only to the CCMC but also to other hospitals that are in the network. This should bring about, he said, the decongestion of the city hospital and at the same time assure the patients of the availability of services and technology that are otherwise not offered by CCMC.

He likewise said that by becoming a member of the network, CCMC will be able to improve its facilities and infrastructure.

“Being in the network will provide CCMC access to service, maintenance and supply cooperatives that will decrease expenses and add to its financial bottom line.”

Aside from entering into a partnership with an HMO, Espina also proposed the creation of a Cebu Health Foundation and a Cebu City Health Board.

The former, he said, shall consist of “a consortium of service clubs like the Rotary, Lions and Zonta” and shall accept and manage donations from well-meaning companies and individuals here and abroad. It should be independent from government, he urged, in order to “open doors for directed donations from all sources and encourage volunteerism,” among others.

The Health Board, on the other hand, will be composed of both public and private sector representatives and is tasked with finding solutions to problems of medical health care in the city.

I agree with Shawn that the challenges that face the CCMC are tremendous, but are they not insurmountable? It will just take a lot of hard work. Of course, it is easier to just sell the hospital. But that will be a cop out.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)