PGH health workers hit budget cut

Published October 16, 2021, 3:59 PM

by Gabriela Baron

Health workers from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) said the P1.2-billion 2022 budget cut for the hospital is “unacceptable.”

(Photo from All UP Workers Union-Manila)

All UP Workers Union-Manila President Karen Mae Faurillo lamented that the government should have provided a P10 billion budget for PGH instead of reducing the appropriated budget for the state hospital.

“We’re still in a pandemic! COVID-19 is still here and continuously threatening everyone. The P130 million cut in the Maintenance and Other Operating Expense (MOOE) and zero Capital Outlay (CO) budget for PGH is very disappointing. PGH is a premier university hospital and one of the biggest COVID-19 referral centers [in] the country,” Faurillo said.

In the proposed 2022 budget, PGH was allotted P5.67 billion, lower than the P6.87 billion for this year.

The group said cuts in MOOE budget would mean a tighter budget for regular operations of the hospital for repairs and maintenance, basic utilities like electricity and water, and laboratory and diagnostic procedures, like reagents.

The cutback, they added, would greatly affect PGH’s delivery of quality healthcare services, especially to its indigent patients.

Meanwhile, a zero budget for CO would mean no funds for infrastructure, facilities, and equipment like mechanical ventilators and high flow machines.

“With no funds for CO, it will be hard for PGH to implement its infrastructure plans, procure equipment, and expand its services where they are most needed especially in this time of pandemic,” the union’s Vice President Benjamin Santos Jr. said.

The University of the Philippines 2022 budget proposal included a P410 million budget for PGH CO, the proposal is inclusive of a P60-million budget for PGH fire protection system and a P320-million budget for proposed equipment outlay including planned purchase of an angiogram suite, robot-assisted surgical system, and portable CT scans.

Understaffing issues

With the COVID-19 surge, PGH continued to expand its services and capacity. It recently increased its bed capacity to 320 from 230 beds to accommodate more COVID-19 patients and opened a 40-bed isolation facility for COVID-19.

However, increasing bed capacity and infrastructure is not enough to address the needs of COVID-19, additional health personnel are also required to operate additional areas.

“Severe understaffing is one major problem hounding PGH now. Nurse to patient ratio in COVID wards is very toxic with 1 nurse to 12 patients, one to two nursing attendants and utility workers for 35 patients. Our nurses are taking care of moderate to severe COVID cases, meaning patients on high flow oxygen, to sedated and intubated patients,” Faurillo stressed.

“This is too much. Health workers are now severely overworked. Ideal safe patient ratio is 1:3. In pre-COVID days, understaffing was already a problem in PGH. This is worsened as many health workers are getting sick, have resigned, and taken early retirement. Understaffing should be seriously addressed by hiring a thousand health personnel with plantilla positions,” she added.

Release of COVID-19 benefits

The group also urged the government to provide the Special Risk Allowance (SRA), Active Hazard Duty Pay (AHDP), and meals, accommodation, and transportation (MAT) allowance of health workers.

“We are calling on the Duterte government to provide our COVID-19 benefits under Bayanihan 2 and continuously implement these benefits until the existence of this pandemic,” Santos said.

“The All UP Workers Union-Manila stands by its demand that the health budget should be prioritized by the Duterte government in the 2022 budget. If indeed this government is concerned and seriously upholding its responsibility and mandate to protect and safeguard the health of the people, a P2 trillion health budget should be provided. In this way, collapse of the healthcare system will be prevented,” Faurillo added.