KORONADAL CITY, SOUTH COTABATO – The National Inter-Agency Task Force against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has asked South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. to fast-track the establishment of the Soccsksargen regional hospital that will serve as referral health facility for COVID-19 cases in Region 12.
In a letter addressed to Tamayo dated October 7, Sec. Carlito Galvez, chief implementer of the National Action Plan against COVID-19, and his deputy, Sec. Vince Dizon, asked Tamayo to turn over the administration of the Upper Valley community hospital in Surallah town to the Department of Health (DOH), which could upgrade the provincial government-run district hospital into a regional health facility.
DOH officials said the refusal of the South Cotabato provincial government to turn over the administration of the Upper Valley community hospital to the DOH has caused the delay in the establishment of the regional health facility.
The NIATF against COVID-19 has intervened to help the DOH take over the administration of the Upper Valley community hospital in order to fast track its upgrading to a regional hospital.
DOH-12 Director Aristides Concepcion Tan said the DOH has allocated about P200 million for the upgrading of the community hospital into the Soccsksargen General Hospital that could upgrade the health care system of the Region 12 covering South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City.
Tan said the creation of the regional hospital was mandated by the passage of Republic Act 1102, authored by South Cotabato second district Representative and Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez in 2018, which sought the establishment of Soccsksargen General Community Hospital.
Hernandez was able to sourced out some P300 million from the national government for the DOH to upgrade the facilities, and procure the needed equipment for the regional health facility.
Tan said the DOH could not utilize the budget intended for the procurement of equipment and facilities for the upgrading of the health facility unless its administration is transferred to DOH.
Hernandez said Region 12 does not have a regional health facility that serves as a referral hospital for COVID-19 patients.
He stressed that the establishment of the Soccsksargen regional hospital was delayed due to the refusal of the provincial government to turn over the administration of the Allah Valley community hospital to the DOH.
He said DOH-12 has been referring its COVID-19 cases to Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPCM) in Davao City and Cotabato Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in Cotabato City, which are quite a distance from the region.
For his part, Tamayo explained that the provincial government was still working on the legal documents and memorandum of agreement with the DOH relative to the turnover of the Upper Valley community hospital.
Galvez told the governor that the NIATF was willing to assist the provincial government in processing the needed documentation relative to the turnover of the Upper Valley community hospital to the supervision of the DOH within the month.
The Regional Development Council-12, chaired by General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera, has also passed a resolution last February, asking Tamayo to turn over the administration of Allah Valley Community hospital to DOH.
Rivera said the SOCCSKSARGEN region needs to upgrade its health care system amid the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the region.
South Cotabato Vice-Gov. Vicente De Jesus said the provincial government should have reconsidered the immediate transfer of the administration of the Allah Valley community hospital to DOH for its upgrading into a regional health facility amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the proposed regional hospital will have a 600-bed capacity with funds from the DOH for its facilities and equipment, and hiring of personnel.
He said the DOH is inclined to revert some P45 million from the budget it had allocated this year for the operational expenses and salaries of personnel of the regional hospital following the delay of its turnover to the to the DOH.