Governance Health and Environment

Safeguard medical financial aid funds; ensure healthcare services accessibility during pandemic — Bong to gov’t agencies

As Malasakit Centers continue to serve poor patients nationwide, Senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography Christopher “Bong” Go warned the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and other concerned agencies to safeguard the funding for all government medical and financial assistance services and ensure that the people’s money is used to benefit the people, and not be wasted or stolen due to corruption.

In an interview given on Monday, August 31, Go clarified the services of the 80 Malasakit Centers nationwide are not affected by the ongoing controversies surrounding the government-owned health insurance agency.

The centers are a one-stop shop that brings together the various government agencies from which patients can seek medical and financial assistance, namely the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

“It’s a one-stop shop lang po, di naman sya naghahawak ng pondo. Sinisiguro lang nito na madaling makakakuha ng tulong pinansyal ang mga tao pagdating sa kanilang pangangailangang pangkalusugan,” Go explained.

“So far naman po, tuloy tuloy ang serbisyo ng Malasakit Center. Andun ang PhilHealth tumutulong din sila. Pero para po sa akin, dapat maayos na po ang kontrobersiya para di maantala ang serbisyo sa mga taong nangangailangan,” he added.

Go encouraged Filipinos who are struggling to pay their medical bills to seek the services offered by the center in order to avoid the arduous process of directly applying for financial aid at the agencies while social distancing measures are in place.

“Ganito po kasi ‘yan, ang PhilHealth, may package ‘yan pero pag nagkaroon ng kumplikasyon ang operasyon mo at sasabihin ng PhilHealth, halimbawa lamang, in excess of 45,000 at hindi nila kayang sagutin, pwede lumapit sa Malasakit Center para matulungan sila ng PCSO, DSWD, at DOH, o iba pang opisina na may medical assistance programs,” he said.

The Malasakit Centers Act was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte last December 2019. It mandates the establishment of the one-stop shop in every DOH-run hospital and the Philippine General Hospital in Manila. The law was mainly authored and sponsored by Go.

With regard to perennial issues plaguing PhilHealth, the Senator appealed to all government workers to support and cooperate with the ongoing investigations.

He said that the task force led by the Department of Justice with support from the Civil Service Commission, Office of the Ombudsman and Commission on Audit, among others, is doing its best to put an end to the deep-rooted, systemic and systematic corruption plaguing PhilHealth as well as other agencies of government.

“Hindi ko po matanggap, hindi ko masikmura na halos walang katapusan itong problema sa PhilHealth at ang mga kababayan nating naghihirap humingi ng tulong,” said Go.

Go explained that his frustrations are simply out of compassion for ordinary Filipinos who are left to suffer while PhilHealth is plagued with perennial issues of corruption. He added that he is defending the rights of the taxpayers, particularly overseas Filipino workers, who work hard to pay for the country’s health care.

“Hindi ko matanggap na darating ang panahon na sabihin ‘sorry po, wala na kami maibibigay na tulong dahil sa korapsyon’. Sabi ko sa isang hearing namin sa Senado, nabanggit ko nga alam kong siguro sa out of frustration, na dapat pag nahuli, putulan ng daliri,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go advised the newly appointed Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) chief, former National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran, to focus on his mission to cleanse PhilHealth and provide Filipinos the kind of service they deserve as the new head of the agency.

The Senator stressed that the next leader that the President appointed in PhilHealth must balance improving healthcare services to the public while putting an end to the perennial issues of deep-rooted, systemic corruption plaguing the state health insurance agency for years.

“Ang magiging misyon ng lider na ito ay ibalik ang tiwala ng taumbayan sa PhilHealth at siguraduhin na ang pondo ay magagamit ng tama para mabigyan ng maayos na serbisyo ang mga Pilipino, lalo na pagdating sa kalusugan,” he said.

“Silent worker po ang taong ito. Marunong mag-account at may karanasan sa pag-imbestiga. Inaasahan nating ipapamalas niya ang kanyang political will para tuluyang linisin ang ahensya, itigil ang corruption, at panagutin ang mga may sala. Sinisigurado po ng Pangulo na naka-linya sa anti-corruption campaign ng administrasyon ang kanyang bagong ia-appoint — with zero tolerance against corrupt practices,” he added.

Duterte, on Monday, August 31, appointed Gierran as the new head of the embattled PhilHealth. Gierran will replace Ricardo Morales, who resigned last week due to his medical condition.

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