SC asked to stop privatization of Philippine Orthopedic Center

Posted at 02/03/14 2:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines – A petition was filed with the Supreme Court (SC) that seeks to stop the privatization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC) in Quezon City.

Indigent patients, health professionals, and the Makabayan bloc at the Lower House filed the petition, arguing that the hospital's privatization violates the right to accessible health care and will gravely deprive poor Filipinos.

Petitioners claimed that the move will "bleed Filipinos dry" for commercial fees.

"Providing health service to the people, especially the poor and vulnerable is one of the fundamental functions of government. This function should not be subject to the profit motive and other influences but should remain a core public function, responsive to the democratic principles and accountable to public officials."

"We have the power to choose for ourselves, and more than merely being charitable, to be civilized and just, especially for the poor and underprivileged," the petition read.

The 700-bed capacity POC is the country's only hospital specializing in orthopedic disorders. It is being privatized as part of the Aquino administration's Private Public Partnership (PPP) program.

Megawide-World Citi Consortium won the P5.6-billion concession agreement last December, and will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the POC for a period of 25 years.

Petitioners urged the high court to issue a writ of preliminary injunction to prevent government from pushing through with the privatization.

They also assailed the use of the Build Operate Transfer (BOT) law to privatize health services.

Petitioners lamented that under a privatized POC, only 70 beds (10 percent capacity) will be allocated for service (indigent) patients and 420 for sponsored (PhilHealth) patients - compared to the current 562 beds or 85 percent capacity for indigent patients.

This is in clear violation of Republic Act (RA) No. 1939, petitioners stressed, since the law mandates government hospitals to allot at least 90 percent of their bed capacity as "charity beds."

"In short, a privatized POC, which for years has been accepting and treating patients regardless of their ability to pay or whether they have PhilHealth or not, will be turning away patients, specifically, the indigent ones, if not lock out even those who are already presently confined," the petition read.

POC employees also face the possibility of losing their jobs since the workforce will also be made private, petitioners added.

President Aquino, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Health Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa and the Megawide- World Citi Consortium were named respondents in the petition.