HEAD to PNoy on 2011 Health Budget: What Reform? Reform for whom? Budget for what?
Leaders of Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) had these questions in mind as they listened to the government health budget for 2011 presented by the Department of Health during budget deliberations in the House of Representatives today. The P1.645 trillion national government budget was being touted by the Aquino administration as a “Reform Budget."
“The allocation for health is still substantially way below what is necessary to meet the needs of Filipinos so we see no real reform here,” said Dr. Geneve Rivera, HEAD secretary-general. “That is why we believe that a P 90-billion DOH budget is more realistic as a first step in the right direction, rather than the P32 billion it is getting next year.”
The group noted that even as the national budget increased, the percentage allocated for health actually decreased to 2.35% from 2.6% this year.
“Unfortunately, direct health services suffer the most in terms of health budget reductions!” added Dr. Rivera.
The budget of the 12 DOH hospitals in Metro Manila was cut by more than P318 million, while that of the 55 government hospital nationwide was cut by P363.7M. Subsidy for indigent patients for use of specialized equipment was also reduced by P 20 million. Worse, even with the high maternal deaths, the budget for “Family Health including Family Planning” was cut by P503 million!
According to Dr. Rivera, “The 2011 national budget offers no reforms and again relegates the health of the people behind debt payments and military spending. It perpetuates the skewed priorities of past regimes.”
The Armed Forces of the Philippines received a hefty P9.98 billion increase in budget on top of the annual P5 billion allocation for “AFP Modernization”. Similarly, the Philippine National Police received a budget increase of P6.6 billion.
“Interest payments for national debts were increased by P80 billion, more than enough to fund our proposed alternative health budget,” added Dr. Rivera. “What kind of government would rather pay its debts while its people go sick and hungry?”
The only major increase that HEAD noted in the health budget was in the Health Facilities Enhancement Program, which increased by P 4.017 billion.
“However, the trend of increasing allocation for this item started in 2008, in parallel with government’s push for medical tourism. The budget for this particular item has since doubled every year.”
“The Aquino administration seems bent on making healthcare a profitable venture rather than a social obligation to the people. It is pushing for the further privatization of healthcare. Sadly, the promised changes are all illusory.” Dr. Rivera concluded. ###
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