Senator JV Ejercito, chairman of the Senate Health committee, described as “disturbing” the diversion of P10.6 billion intended for senior citizens’ premium for 2015 during the time of former Health Secretary Janette Garin and PhilHealth president and CEO Alexander Padilla under the previous administration.
“It’s sort of disturbing. Perhaps, it’s one of the reasons for PhilHealth’s ‘unhealthy finances,” said Ejercito.
“They inherited this condition from the previous administration. This revelation is disturbing that the P10.6 billion came from GAA [General Appropriations Act] for the funds for the senior citizens which had been lost,” Ejercito also told reporters afer his committee hearing on the performance and obligations of PhilHealth.
The amount, he said, could be used to fund the expanded Senior Citizens Act, but was diverted by the DoH to fund its health facilities enhancement program including the rural health units.
“This diversion of P10.6 billion fund for PhilHealth intended for the benefits of senior citizens for CY 2015 to the DoH, for me, is a heinous act three times cruel than the Dengvaxia fiasco,” stressed Ejercito.
“I can only describe this act as an utterly heartless and insensitive to the condition of our senior citizens,” said Ejercito.
Ejercito’s committee also tackled the fraudulent acts committed by some doctors involving funds from PhilHealth.
Dr. Anthony Leachon, PhilHealth independent director as representative of the Monetary Board, recommended to Ejercito’s panel to punish only the doctor who committed any irregularity and spare the hospital to which was connected unless collusion could be proven.
He insisted that holding a hospital liable by suspending its operation due to a fraudulent act by its doctor would adversely affect the hospital services and prejudice the patients.
“It’s unfair to punish a hospital due to an erring doctor,” also said the former President of the Philippine College of Physicians, citing the need to make amendments in the charter of Philhealth regarding the punishments to be imposed on doctors.
He also noted the at least P50,000 fines meted out on an erring doctor which resulted in recidivism.
“An erring doctor can just pay the P50,000 fine and then commit again fraudulent acts,” said Leachon.
If the fine imposed would be higher like P200,000, he said, an erring doctor would re-think before committing another irregularity.
He said the imposition of a fine should go along with the filing of a case before the Professional Regulatory Commission which could cancel the license of a doctor to practice the medical profession.
Blue Ribbon committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon immediately gave his nod to Leachon’s proposal.
Dr. Bu Castro of the Philippine Medical Association also gave assurances the doctors would police their own ranks to avoid doctors being fined or charged before the PMA.
Meanwhile, Ejercito said Garin and Padilla were already slapped with graft charges before the Ombudsman due to the diversion of the senior citizens Philhealth funds.
The charges were filed by Philhealth OIC President and CEO Celestina Ma. Jude dela Serna.
In the same hearing, Dela Serna guaranteed that the present leadership would not tolerate corruption. But she is not at liberty to disclose details or talk about several corruption at Philhealth.
She also announced that Philhealth and the Private Hospital Association of the Philippines led by its president, Dr. Rustico Jimenez, signed an agreement for the continuous service to the public.