Senate eyes review of DOH spending after ‘bungling’ ICU bed procurement

Some NKTI patients lie on the ground, sleep in the open due to occupancy surge

Some NKTI patients lie on the ground, sleep in the open due to occupancy surge. Contributed photo

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Wednesday pushed for the Senate’s “mandatory review” of the Department of Health’s (DOH) spending to find out if funds meant for ventilators and intensive care unit (ICU) equipment had been utilized properly.

“In any war, we should always look at the logistics. For the frontlines to keep on fighting, the supply lines must keep on running,” Recto said in a statement.

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The senator issued the call after the DOH reportedly “bungled the acquisition” of 200 ICU beds offered by an Austrian company late last year. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III , however, denied this.

Still, Recto said the increase in the number of COVID-19 dedicated mechanical ventilators in private and public hospitals from 1,446 units in May 2020 to 2,601 units this month “does not seem to be commensurate with the need.”

“Isa pa, hindi natin alam kung ilan ang ambag ng government hospitals. May nagsabi na karamihan ay alokasyon ng mga pribadong ospital,” he said.

“The data should be unbundled so we will know the inventory in government hospitals. Dito dumadagsa ang mga mahihirap, kaya dapat alam natin kung sapat ba ang kanilang mga ICU units, ventilators, high-flow oxygen therapy machines,” he added.

He cited a DOH report that showed a nationwide total of 2,521 ICU units allocated for COVID-19 patients.

“Again, pinaghalong government and private ito. Pero ang mahalagang tanong, sapat ba ito?” the senator asked.

“When public hospitals start posting ‘No admission for COVID patients’ signs, then we know the answer,” he added.

Recto pointed out that DOH’s capital outlays (CO) budget or the funds used for equipment and buildings was P29 billion in 2019 and 2020.

For this year, P14.7 billion was appropriated by Congress, bringing the three-year CO total of the DOH to P43.7 billion, according to the senator.

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This is on top of the allocations for four Quezon City-based hospitals, which are classified as government corporations and whose annual operating budgets are not included in DOH budget, he added.

“Hindi pa kasama dito ang mga augmentations at realignments na pinahintulutan ng Bayanihan Act I and II,” Recto further said.

“For example, part of the DOH’s P35.51 billion share from Bayanihan II authorized expenses is the procurement of P3 billion worth of PPEs (personal protective equipment). Also included is P4.5 billion for the construction of temporary medical isolation facilities and field hospitals,” he added.

According to Recto, the DOH reported that there are 10,788 beds in wards for COVID-19 patients from 1,751 in May 2020.

The number of isolation beds also rose from 4,999 in May 2020 to 19,572 this month, he said.

“Again, in the case of wards, we have to identify where these are. Our interest is knowing if the DOH has been able to mount a build-up of resources over the past 13 months,” Recto added.

EDV

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