OPINION | Against Privatization of Public Hospitals, Health Facilities, and Health Services





We are Medicum Veritas Youth Association, an organization run by eight Senior High School students in the Health Allied strand from the University of Santo Tomas. We ought to contribute to the health and improvement to the well-being of our fellow Filipinos in the country by providing the best care to every patient through education and research.

We would like to express our notion on the gradual privatization of hospitals in the country for it promotes corporatization that leads to the inflation of unemployment rate in the country, inaccessibility of healthcare services due to its increased cost, and it violates the patient’s right to receive their required treatment. As of now, several charity wards are being considered to be replaced with PhilHealth wards by the Department of Health. Also, an article reported by

Business Mirror (2018) states that government hospitals such as the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) have either started charging indigent patients additional fees or increased fees for some services such as laboratory and X-ray.


Corporatization refers to a public organization that transforms into a corporation. The company’s activity is regulated under corporate law (Companies Act) and the revenue is regulated by contract (Aidemark, 2005), but the company is still owned largely by the public and is usually not operated for profit. Corporatization can be seen as a step towards privatization (Öhrming & Sverke, 2001) or even as a form of privatization (Lundqvist, 1991). (Falkenberg, H., 2010).

More so, the corporatization of medicine means the conversion of a patient-centered healthcare system to a more profit-oriented system like in private hospitals. These hospitals may prioritize
the business aspect of healthcare that will likely focus on mass production of a commodity rather than the actual purpose of hospitals which is the welfare of its constituents. The Medicum

Veritas Youth Association, therefore, identifies three separate negative effects of corporatization, mainly, the rising unemployment rate, inaccessibility due to cost, and the violation of basic human rights.

First, the unemployment rate in the country has the possibility to inflate if the privatization of hospitals will be implemented. As mentioned above, corporatization transforms public organizations into corporations wherein their activities are regulated. Once this occurs, such hospitals will have budget cuts due to the strict pricing regulations implemented, and one effective resort to address this budget cut is to decrease manpower. This high probability that doctors, nurses, and staff will be fired from their jobs will not only affect them personally but instead, it will also affect the whole country since an increase in the unemployment rate will also affect the country’s economy negatively. Additionally, the country has an ongoing problem regarding the shortage of doctors and medical workers in hospitals - if the privatization will pursue and manpower will be decreased, it will only make the problem worse. This scenario will also bear unmanageable working conditions in the hospitals to the point that not all the patients will be catered.

With that being said, thousands of Filipinos suffer from the inaccessibility of affordable health care services. Access to public healthcare for citizens is a basic right that should be state-provided. However, this has now become something only the privileged can afford. Filipino citizens, especially the poor and the marginalized, are being deprived of their rights. As mentioned in one article which discussed the healthcare access in the country, 8 out of 10 Filipino never had a medical check up or physical examination. This shows that even though the government offers free medical services in public hospitals, not all indigents receive them; this is because they have no financial means to afford medical care and these services are limited. This issue is further intensified by the fact that 6 out of 10 people die without ever seeing a doctor as mentioned from the same source. In order to help Filipinos to pay for their medical expenses, financial support is provided by the government. With the use of the PhilHealth card, their expenses could be reduced as it is an insurance card which covers certain amount of hospital expenses. However, according to local think-tank IBON foundation, this will no longer be helpful when public hospitals were to be privatized for the reason that most of the private hospitals in the Philippines do not accept PhilHealth in paying for the hospital bill.

Furthermore, according to one report about the monthly expenses of Filipinos, 40% of their income is spent on food per month, while the remaining 60% is spent on miscellaneous. Since public hospitals offer free services and medicines, it aids the marginalized Filipinos tremendously; and any public hospitals are said to be fined if they would charge their patients for violating the “no balance billing system”. A report by Diaz (2018) stated that there are public hospitals that are being fast track to transfer from public to private sectors. If public hospitals were to be privatized, their patients would have to pay for their medical bills - and even though they could be assisted by PhilHealth or a private insurance company, not all of these patients would be able to pay. This bill would mostly cater to the indigents as Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Izagani Zarate stated that this would cease the privatization of Orthopedic, Fabella Hospital and mental hospital along with others. The general population has a right to have access to health care without resorting to private hospitals. Health care must be convenient, economical and suitable in line with the people's necessity as stated by the lawmaker.


Finally, another major concern regarding the privatization of hospitals is that it deprives the Filipino citizens of “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, Article 25, which states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services...”. This is because along with the privatization of hospitals come various forms of such as public-private partnership, corporatization and revenue enhancement program that leads to the inaccessibility of public health care services. According to Desiderio (2015), if not for the Public-Private Partnership Center (PPP) and several other health professionals, the Philippine Orthopedic Center would have turned into a private institution, which, in turn, would leave the thousands of charity patients who depend on the public institution to find medical attention by themselves. This is a clear violation of the rights of the patient to receive the service that they need.

Thus, we, Medicum Veritas Youth Association believe that the government should approve House Bill 7437 or the “Anti-Privatization of Public Hospitals, Health Facilities, and Health Services Act” which aims to “block moves by various private groups to take over government health facilities.” Passing this bill and turning it into a law would prevent the privatization of 33 of the 72 public hospitals that are planned to be corporatized. The passage of the bill will hinder the inevitable price-hike which would definitely affect those who depend on free health services like the poor. It will maintain the inclusivity of hospitals and prioritize the indigents since 90% of the total bed capacity of all public hospitals will be allotted for them. This bill will also allow more people who seek and need medical attention to be treated because government hospitals contribute to the large portion of the total bed capacities in hospitals in the country. According to the Philippines Health Service Delivery Profile (2012), in 2010, there were 1,800 hospitals in the Philippines 40% of which are public hospitals; additionally; these public hospitals had 50% or 49,372-bed capacities. The bill also has a penalty for those who would try to privatize a public hospital, this would help so that the future welfare of the public hospitals would be protected and the rights of the masses for healthcare preserved. This bill when passed, with the recent “Universal Healthcare Law”, will improve the quality of service public hospitals serve to those in need, providing their beneficiaries with better quality healthcare from public hospitals.

Moreover, Article XIII Social Justice and Human Rights Section 11 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “The State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development…which shall endeavor to provide free medical care to paupers”, free healthcare services and essential medicines to the Filipino citizens should be allocated by the government provided that the funds that will be utilized will only be obtained from the public money in order to ensure that it is tremendously not-for-profit (NFP).

This House Bill, when passed, will allow public hospitals to remain under the provisions and care of the government. Furthermore, public hospitals will remain funded by the local, state and federal funds. Since public hospitals are government-funded, they shall give medical treatments to anyone and everyone. Because of this, every Filipino, as well as, every person living or visiting the country of any class, race, age, nationality, gender, and status, especially the less fortunate Filipinos, who could not even afford a simple check-up from a licensed doctor and the indigenous people living in rural areas and in areas unreached by help. The passing of the bill will also benefit the registered nurses, doctors and other Filipinos who are interested or had a background in working in the field of medicine. And most importantly, it will contribute to the improvement of the healthcare services of government hospitals in the country.

In conclusion, we hope that one day, we, Filipinos need not line up at the early hours of the morning just to get free healthcare nor wish to just end it all because of the staggering amounts of bills. This bill when passed, will benefit the Filipinos greatly as it will protect and promote the right to health of its citizens by making accessible quality and affordable health care services available to everyone and it will take us a step closer to the goal of free and accessible healthcare for all.


Sincerely,

Medicum Veritas Youth Association
(Signed)
Gayeta, Zharylle R. - President
Larrauri, Sofia Clarisse C. - Vice President
Leviste, Joefre Ivan D. - Treasurer
Luna, Diego Raphael F. - Membership Chair
Tan Franchesca Jean R. - Secretary
Adriano, Joyce Nikka S. - Membership Chair
Agliam, Patrice - Communications Chair
Doronila, John Patrick S. - Communications Chair
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