By Hannah Torregoza
Reelectionist Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Tuesday sought passage of the measure delegating to the Department of Health (DOH) the job of increasing the bed capacity of government hospitals.
Angara, who earlier filed Senate Bill No. 1682, noted that under the present set up, the DOH can only increase the bed capacity of state-owned hospitals and upgrade their services through legislation.
The senator said the gap in hospital bed requirement could be addressed if the DOH would be given the authority to increase the bed capacity of all government hospitals under its supervision.
He also said passage of the measure into law would help prepare the DOH in the effective implementation of the landmark Universal Health Care (UHC) law (Republic Act No. 11223), that President Rodrigo Duterte had signed in February.
“To accommodate more patients, government hospitals would need additional beds for increased admissions with the expected influx of new people into the health care system as a result of the UHC law,” said Angara who is also one of the authors of the UHC law which grants health coverage for all Filipinos.
“The DOH has the capacity and expertise to assess gaps in service delivery. By putting these government hospitals under the jurisdiction of the DOH, which manages these hospitals in the first place, shall increase the efficiency in the delivery of health services to sustain the increasing demands of patients,” Angara said.
Angara, who earlier campaigned in the province of Leyte, said the inability of the DOH to upgrade and increase the bed capacity of government hospitals was worrisome because it limited access to medical and health services that every Filipino patient rightfully deserves.
Angara, chair of the Senate committee on local government made the proposal while in Leyte, which is home to the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC), a 500-bed capacity Level III DOH hospital. The lawmaker noted there was a pending bill in the House of Representatives seeking to upgrade EVRMC, rename it to Eastern Visayas Medical Center, hire more medical staff, improve its services and facilities, and increase its bed capacity to 1,500.
Currently there are 70 DOH-retained public hospitals nationwide, of which 53 are general hospitals, 14 specialty hospitals, two infirmaries and one psychiatric facility which complement the devolved district, provincial and private hospitals in providing health care services.
Angara lamented the low bed capacity, pointing out that in 2016, the average bed occupancy rate of all DOH hospitals was 136 percent and 61 percent of these hospitals had bed occupancy higher than the authorized bed capacity.
“The mismatch in bed occupancy, compounded by lack of sufficient manpower and health services, hinders the quality health care for patients and makes it difficult to sustain the growing health needs of the population,” Angara emphasized.
To illustrate this, Angara said data gathered by the Philippine National Statistics Authority in 2015, showed that six out of 10 deaths were not medically attended.
The lawmaker also noted that only one in every nine Filipinos was able to visit a health facility or sought advice or treatment, citing a 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey.
“Unfortunately, with the increase in population, it is common for residents from far-flung provinces to travel for medical treatment purposes because of limited health services in their areas,” he pointed out.
“The influx of patients leads to longer waiting time due to lack of available space in the hospital thus delaying the treatment,” he said.