Health workers slam the impending sale of NKTI lands

GAUGING from recent developments, the Aquino government seems to be on a rampage to squeeze money from the Filipino people and the public assets with utmost disregard of the widespread poverty among the Filipinos and the vital use of the latter for public services, the Alliance of Health Workers said.

The AHW cited the impending sale of a two-parcel land of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) with a total area of 16,334 sq. meters. NKTI claims its legal hold on the property by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 2381 excluding the property as a national government center site and reserving private rights to the NKTI as a usufructuary, thus said sale is illegal.

The National Housing Authority (NHA) auctioned off the land without NKTI’s knowledge despite some previous agreements reached by NHA and NKTI. SMDC won in the bidding.

The group have been critical of the sale, lease and transfer of control of public hospitals, health services and properties to private entities. These moves means abandonment of the government’s responsibility to people’s right to health in lieu of profits.

AHW regarded the sale of the NKTI land as additional item to PNOy’s long list of public properties for disposition to private investors. The National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) together with the Welfareville Property is up for sale. The Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC) is up for bidding this January 2013. The San Lazaro Hospital (SLH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) are open for the Public-Private Partnership, the flagship program of the Aquino government. The 26 public hospitals nationwide are targets for corporatization. All these public health institutions cater mainly to poor patients.

Our big question now is, “What will happen to our poor patients? DOH itself claims that 7 out of 10 patients cannot afford to see a doctor for treatment. These numbers will surely increase considering that almost 80% Filipinos are poor.”  DOH claims that allowing private investors in public hospitals will improve health services. We fully agree. But this should be the responsibility of the government and not of private capitalists.

Health should be a public service it being a basic people’s right. The WHO recommends that at least 5% of the country’s GDP be allotted to health which is about Php 527 Billion in 2013. The 2013 health budget of Php 53.8 Billion is far way below this amount. It is too ironic that the government cannot allot a bigger budget for health, the group said.

It claims economic growth; can allow Php100 billion lost to corruption and mismanagement of public funds; and allots a big slice of the budget for debt payment. This is simply the government’s non-priority of people’s health.

With private investors, health will become a commodity for profit. It will squeeze the poor man’s hard earned money; push them further to destitution while enriching the local and foreign businesses by their lucrative return of investments.

The group urged the public to oppose the sale, lease, and any form of transfer of health facilities and services by the government to private businesses and demand from the Aquino administration to perform its responsibility to people’s health.

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