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Manila’s ‘antipoor’ policy slammed

July 23, 2014 · 


Ordinance allowing six government hospitals to charge fees protested

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MANILA, Philippines–About a dozen women danced to a pop song in front of the Ospital ng Sampaloc in Manila on Monday morning, not to extol the virtues of exercise, but to protest an ordinance that authorized the city’s six government-run hospitals to charge residents for services.

The ralliers who danced to Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care about Us” were from the Alliance of Sampaloc against Price Surge and Gabriela-Manila and said that they have had enough of the “antipoor” policy.

“The title of Michael Jackson’s song says what we really [feel about] the government,” said Cora Agovida, Gabriela-Manila chair. “They don’t care about us because they don’t allocate enough funds for social services. All they are concerned about is the collection of taxes….”


In particular, the group opposed the fees imposed by the Ospital ng Sampaloc, Gat Andres Bonifacio Hospital, Jose Abad Santos Hospital, Ospital ng Maynila, Santa Ana Hospital and the Ospital ng Tondo on patients—for materials such as cotton balls used in medical procedures, room fees during confinement and laboratory procedures, and medical tests.

Agovida said the six hospitals started charging fees in February based on Ordinance 8331, which amended the Omnibus Revenue Code of Manila. Approved last year, the ordinance set a consultation fee of P100 for outpatient cases and P200 for emergency cases.

It also set room board fees (P100 per day), professional fees (minimum of P300 per day for a general practitioner) and payment for services such as X-ray (P60 to P4,200 depending on the body part), CT scan (P2,000 to P7,500 depending on the body part), and laboratory tests such as P30 for a complete blood count.

However, the Manila City Development Information Services said in a statement that the six hospitals still provide free medical services to poor people. It added that patients are assessed by personnel from the City Social Welfare and Development Office to determine whether they should be given an “Orange Card” which would exempt them from any charge.

The ordinance also provides for varying discounts on medical services in any of the six hospitals depending on a patient’s income range.

Agovida, however, said that the hospitals were now seeing the effect of the ordinance. “Before the charges were implemented, there were many people who queued up for checkups and other services here at the Ospital ng Sampaloc. Even before dawn, you could see the line of people waiting for treatment snaking around the hospital building. Now, you hardly see any line here,” she said.

“We [also] haven’t seen any improvements in the hospitals’ services,” she added. “Instead, (the fees) are another burden for poor people who earn below the minimum wage. This contradicts Mayor (Joseph) Erap Estrada’s slogan, ‘Erap para sa mahirap.’”




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