NCMH chief welcomes Senate probe, junks corruption allegation

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 04 2023 10:04 PM

A stinking smell inside the buildings, overcrowded wards, and supposed corruption inside the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) prompted Senator Raffy Tulfo to seek a Senate investigation on the matter.

Tulfo conducted a surprise inspection of the facility last March 27.

"Ang isang problema na hindi isinumbong sa atin. Grabe po talaga, amoy-tangkal ng baboy. Matapang po ang sikmura ko pero dito mukhang hindi ko kakayanin," Tulfo remarked in the middle of his NCMH visit, in a video provided by his office.

Tulfo saw patients sleeping on the floor in Pavillion 8, the overcrowded Forensic Ward or Pavillion 8, where patients with criminal records are admitted, and the dietary section with foul odor.

He also inspected an unfinished structure inside the 47-hectare NCMH compound.

"Magkano po pondo dito?" Tulfo asked center chief Dr. Noel Reyes. 

"When I read the Ombudsman report, about P16 million,” Reyes said.

"This is where the taxpayers' money went. Yung P16 million na naging abo," the senator said as the camera panned to the incomplete roofing of the unfinished structure.

Tulfo, through Resolution 562, has called on the Senate health committee to probe the NCMH operation, which the facility head immediately welcomed.

Interviewed by ABS-CBN News Tuesday, Reyes said Pavillion 4, which can only accept 300 patients, now houses almost 600 wards.

He said around 200 recovered patients have yet to be received by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

Others are overstaying, because relatives refuse to accept them, he said.

"Sana mabilis yung tradition namin na if ever we found the patient to be able to be competent enough to stand the rigors of trial, then sunduin na sana, then go back to jail so the case will progress,” Reyes said.

“The BJMP probably, just like me, has some fund issue to have this. But that should be addressed also because that is part of the rights of the patient," the official said.

Within this month, Pavillion’s annex building will be finally opened, he said.

As for the pavilions with foul odor, Reyes vowed to improve the condition of their 28 operational pavilions, out of the 35 wards of the center.

"Nagkataon lang siguro during that time that it was cleaning time of the ward. And we hope that we can address it that every time it will be clean and not that smelly," he said.

Reyes said he will never condone corruption under his leadership.

"Hindi pa naman tayo perfect. We're not that perfect. But there are a number of improvements that we're done… the national center for mental health is open to this investigation. Much more helpful if we will be assisted in this corruption investigation… under my watch I can actually say I will not allow this to happen," Reyes said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire meanwhile said another NCMH building will soon rise.

"Unti-unti na nating nai-improve ang services pati na rin ang itsura ng facility natin… we are going to improve on the points that we're noted. Ito ay bigyan lang kami ng konting lanahon, dahil inaantay namin ang isang building na itinatayo pa lamang," Vergeire said.

The NCMH patients, according to Reyes, come from underprivileged families from all parts of the country.

Unlike a typical hospital where a patient usually spends a maximum of two weeks to recover, he said NCMH patients usually need two years to be cured.