MANILA -- A Palace official denied that public health services are being privatized, clarifying that only a small proportion of services will be offered for private use.
This, amid reports that government is trying to privatize 70 to 100 government hospitals across the country.
"It is not privatization. We are... This is part of the governance reform with respect to public health," Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
He cited one example. "The [Philippine] Orthopedic Center contract underwent the NEDA ICC approval. It is a public-partnership project under a build, operate, and transfer scheme. Now, the private entity will design, build, and finance the project and they will operate and maintain the hospital for 25 years."
In the case of the Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC), he said most of the facilities will still be for public use. "In the scope of the Philippine Orthopedic Center, you are looking at a total number of beds -- 700. Out of the 700 beds, only 30 percent will be for private use. So, 30 percent of that is only 210 beds, and there would be 490 beds for public use, so 70 percent will still be for public use."
Lacierda also pointed out that the cost will be competitive.
"Another concern is that when you privatize it, there is a fear that rates will increase because of the profit factor. That's not going to happen. Number one, rates in POC will be competitive. It will be more or less the same as the other government-run hospitals like Heart Center, the National Kidney Transplant Institute."
He also said indigent patients will still be covered by PhilHealth.
"PhilHealth will cover the bills and the government will continue to subsidize the Philippine Orthopedic Center for five years. And government will not relinquish management control and supervision on the Philippine Orthopedic Center," he said.
He said a governing council will be created, whose members will include the Secretary of Health and members of the contracting parties. This council will supervise the implementation.
"The private entity cannot raise the rates on their own," he said.
Lacierda, however, pointed out that government's policy is towards disease prevention.
"The emphasis of the President when it comes to public health is preventive health and that's the reason why we have been focusing a lot on the preventive care. We need to build hospitals to accommodate certain diseases. But on the whole, the primary emphasis right now, the President -- and, in fact, this has been very, very clear from our Cabinet meetings -- is that we should emphasize preventive health, and so you've got a lot of PhilHealth packages right now on a number of... We can provide you the number of diseases that are now covered by PhilHealth," he said.