Petitioner seeks repeal of EBMC eco-enterprise law
posted 10-Sep-2019  ·  
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A resident of Virac has asked the provincial government to suspend the ordinance that converted the Eastern Bicol Medical Center into an economic enterprise.

In a petition he submitted to the office of Acting Governor Shirley Abundo and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Jun Obusan Torres of barangay San Isidro Village said the suspension of the measure should allow the provincial board to revert the health institution to its former status as a provincial hospital.

He recalled that before its conversion, EBMC delivered good and affordable health services for the poor.

When EBMC was converted into an economic enterprise, the children's ward and other medical wards for the poor suffered from poor sanitation, overcrowding and neglect while the pay ward rooms for well-t0-do patients were given much attention with bigger space and better service, he stated.

The hospital’s conversion into an eco-enterprise discriminated against the poor, making their lives more difficult with ‘under the table’ payments to attending physicians often without receipts, in addition to the hospital bills, Torres claimed.

He cited his own experience in September 2018 and February 2019 when three of his children were confined at the hospital, with his family instructed to pay an additional P500 to the doctor through the nurses’ station.

The petition also accused some EBMC doctors of prescribing medicines that are not available at the hospital and of not using some of the medicines bought by patients outside the EBMC, including drugs prescribed to Torres’ daughter.

“Some nurses even ask for the excess medical supplies or dextrose bought by poor patients,” he said. “This makes us wonder if some EBMC physician prescribes medicine to buy outside EBMC with excess intentionally. Why does EBMC economic enterprise always lacks medicine?”

He asked where the income generated from EBMC economic enterprise and the shopping mall goes as it could be used to sustain the EBMC operation and supplies aside from the regular Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) for the province and other possible assistance from other government offices.

With three private hospitals which he says are available to respond to the needs of those who can afford, Torres said the island’s health services must be balanced through an exclusive public hospital that will offer quality and yet affordable or, if possible, free health services to the mainstream population.

Right now, indigent and poor residents of Catanduanes have no other choice if they need hospitalization, free check-up, or treatment in emergency situations, except to go to EBMC which he said  is now unfriendly to the poor who are asked to pay P150 for Emergency Room (ER) consultation and P50 for Out-Patient Department (OPD) consultation.

Torres disclosed that the Rural Health Unit of Virac cannot accommodate free check-ups with free generic medicines for all indigent constituents and is offering its services three (3) times a week only as it has only one doctor, resulting in lots of cancelled check-up schedules.

“Much to our family’s disappointment and dismay, our sick children suffered waiting for a week of scheduled check-up which is limited to Virac residents only,” he said.

The provincial government can and should upgrade the physical status, equipment and services of EBMC to favor the poor without necessarily converting to an oppressive, corrupt and ineffective economic enterprise, the petitioner added.

He described the conversion of medical wards and recovery room into an unnecessary pavilion for a few pay ward patients, as well as the unnecessary renovations, as a waste of money and as an avenue of commissions without real benefit to the public/

At present, he pointed out, there are 21 improved pay ward rooms with individual comfort rooms and facilities maintained in good and clean condition but which are vacant most days while the medical wards for indigent patients are crowded and not in good condition, with neglected and dirty comfort rooms.

“In line with the government's original purpose of the establishment of EBMC, we appeal that the EBMC be a priority government hospital for the poor and Indigent with free consultations and available medical supplies and free generic medicines,” Torres stated.

He suggested that the convention center and other provincial property be converted into an economic enterprise to generate income, but not the EBMC which is mandated to deliver affordable health hersvices.

Half of the 21 pay ward rooms as well as the second floor pavilion should be restored into a medical ward for the poor and the collection of consultation fees should be stopped, he added.

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