The Veterans Memorial Medical Center is in urgent need of P490 million worth of new medical equipment but was advised to try to secure them using the green fees derived from its operation of a golf course in Quezon City.
This was revealed when Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles questioned officials of the Department of National Defense who admitted that the department’s allocation for vital medical equipment is zero.
During the DND budget briefing before the House Committee on Appropriations, defense officials disclosed that unlike last year’s P1.786 billion allocation, hospitals under the department will get none next year.
On questioning by Nograles, DND officials revealed that the Veterans Memorial Medical Center has requested for the acquisition of a linear accelerator machine worth P300 Million to replace its decrepit cobalt-60 teletherapy machine and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine worth P90 Million.
It has also asked P36 Million for the construction of endoscopy center with equipage; P29 Million for the renovation of the Department of Radiology and Radiotherapy and P35 Million for the renovation and upgrade of its pulmonary intensive care unit (PICU).
The DBM scrapped the VMMC request and only provided a footnote that it should be covered by profits earned from its golf course which, according to its hospital Director Dominador Chiong only amounts to a fraction of P2 Million a year.
Nograles noted that the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), both those in the active and the reserve service, and even the Constitutionally protected veterans are among the most exposed to the lingering threat of the Covid-19 so it does not make any sense that the DBM gave them zero budget for hospitalization and zero budget for medical equipment acquisition.
“I could not understand why there is zero budget for Hospitalization Expenses and new equipment for any of the hospitals for soldiers and veterans,” lamented Nograles.
“They are not bulletproof, they are not covid-proof, and we are bound by the Constitution to help and honor them,” Nograles said.
The partylist lawmaker said the DBM may have overlooked the situation of the VMMC.
He asked Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to submit to congress a revised budget which would include allocations needed by for its hospitals and the medical expenses of its personnel.
He said Congress could look for funds to cover the budget gap for the medical needs of the AFP personnel through possible budget realignments.