POSTSCRIPT / September 4, 2022 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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DBM not reducing PGH’s 2023 budget

The Department of Budget and Management told the STAR yesterday that, contrary to some claims, it has not reduced the proposed ₱23.1-billion budget for the University of the Philippines and the Philippine General Hospital.

The Department of Budget and Management has not reduced the proposed ₱23.1-billion budget for the University of the Philippines and the Philippine General Hospital. Photo: Shutterstock

The DBM said, “There is no budget cut. If you compare the 2022 National Expenditure Program (NEP) and the 2023 NEP, the figures are the same. There is a difference between the 2023 NEP and the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA) which is attributable to changes and/or adjustments introduced by the Congress.

“Upward adjustments were made by the Congress to the 2022 GAA for various capital outlay for infrastructure projects and purchase of hospital equipment for the Philippine General Hospital. These adjustments were for one-time or non-recurring expenditures.”

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said that as mandated by the Constitution, “The education sector remains the highest budgetary priority. The budget for it increased by 8.2 percent with an allocation of ₱852.8 billion. Education assistance and subsidies have an allocation of ₱54.9 billion.”

Karen Faurillo, president of the All UP Workers Union-Manila/PGH, said last Saturday that under the ₱5.268-trillion proposed national budget for 2023, the UP System will receive ₱23.1 billion, or ₱2.5 billion less than its current ₱25.6-billion budget, while the proposed allocation for PGH is ₱5.412 billion, or ₱893 million less than its ₱6.302-billion budget this year.

Faurillo said slashing the PGH budget was unfair and unacceptable. “The PGH is known as a premier training hospital and ‘Ospital ng Bayan.’ The budget cut is a clear indication that people’s health is not a priority of this government,” she said.

But the DBM told us there was no reduction in its budget proposal for 2023 which is the same figure allocated for 2022. It said the additional amount for one-time capital outlay was just added by the Congress when it enacted the 2022 GAA.

If we got the DBM clarification right, the ₱2.5 billion added by the Congress to the NEP for 2022 (and now omitted in the NEP for 2023) should not be attributed to the DBM nor its exclusion for 2023 blamed on it.

Dr. Jonas del Rosario, PGH spokesperson, also clarified earlier that they did not ask DBM for a bigger budget: “We have not really spent some of the budget that was given to us last year. We were hesitant to ask for more because not all (the money was) spent.”

He added that Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, PGH Director, agreed that the allocation proposed by the DBM is “more than enough” to fund the hospital’s priority programs, particularly its free medical services for indigent patients.

Workers and some alumni of UP-PGH have complained that while the education sector gets an 8.2-percent increase, the UP System will see P2.5 billion excluded from its budget proposed by the DBM.

• Alumni cry for PGH budget support

Alumni of UP-PGH joining the discussion on social media expressed sympathy and batted for increasing the PGH budget. On Twitter, for instance, Dr. Carlo Trinidad (UPCM 2012), @hellokidneyMD, recalled:

“During the first few months of PGH residency training, I had to go by without salary (because they gave it as a lumpsum after 3-4 months). I was dependent on allowance from my parents. But my patients depended on it as well. I used it to buy antibiotics, rent mechanical ventilators and procure blood products for them.

“The hospital understandably wasn’t able to provide everything for free. Part of our job was to beg for donors through social services to support our patients’ medical expenses.

“I remember spending part of my first salary to buy supplies for the surgery of one of the 15 patients I handled. The nurses had it worse, with the dismal nurse-to-patient ratio of as much as 1:30 in the ER!

“I often wondered why we couldn’t hire more. The shortage of hospital staff was so telling that we surmised that if medical clerks and interns were to be suddenly removed from the wards, the hospital would collapse. Yes, they go on duties and take care of patients too, for free.

“We got all sorts of patients with difficult-to-diagnose conditions needing extensive workup and testing. But our charts would often contain ‘ideally for (insert test)’, because either the patient couldn’t afford it or the hospital did not have it. We had no more salary from the hospital during fellowship (additional two years of subspecialty training).

“We were taking care of patients for free, save for a small stipend given by pharma sponsors and our consultants. That’s why I get incensed whenever I hear about PGH budget cuts. There is never enough money to cater to the ever-growing number of patients that need an equally growing number of HCWs and facilities to take care of them.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if you won’t have to choose who among your patients gets the mechanical ventilator or who gets dialyzed? When you won’t have to wait months before getting funds for chemo? When you can properly diagnose a patient because all the needed tests are available?”

An alumna’s parent, Mayang @magnoliabb06: “Grabe! I remember nung nursing student pa ang anak ko. Ambagan sila ng mga ka-group nya para pambili ng gamot at kung anu-ano pang supplies ng mga patients sa isang gov’t hospital sa Kalibo, Aklan, na assigned sa kanila. At di nya piniling doon mag-volunteer nang RN na sya. Nung kasagsagan ng malalang COVID surges, ambagan pa rin sila kahit wala na sila sa Pilipinas. Tulong nila sa mga ka-batch nilang naiwan dito.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 4, 2022)

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