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By Andrea Lim

The privatization of public hospitals under Aquino’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program makes it clear that the government is not concerned with developing the country’s health sector, which it considers a burden and not a service that needs to be improved.

Among the first PPP projects implemented in the health sector was the construction of a private Philippine Orthopedic Center inside the National Kidney Transplant Institute compound in Quezon City, which will replace the government-run POC in Banawe Street in the same city.

Aquino’s health secretary Enrique One declared that 72 public hospitals were subject to privatization, and defended the P5.69B budget allotted to privatize the POC to winning bidder Megawide Construction Corp.-World Citi Inc, saying that it will be used to build a 700-bed tertiary hospital within the NKTI compound.

The new POC will be called the Center for Bone and Joint Diseases, Trauma and Rehabilitation Medicine. Once it becomes operational, it will permit Henry Sy’s Megawide to allocate only 10% of its beds to impoverished patients, while the rest will be allocated to paying patients who will either be shelling out cash or paying through PhilHealth or other private insurance accounts.

Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) condemned the Aquino administration for its anti-poor program, saying that the privatization of health services is a “death sentence to workers and the poor.”

KMU Secretary-General Roger Saluta says that the privatization of the POC is the first step in the government’s abandonment of its responsibility to subsidize health services.

Selling out public hospitals to big capitalists is proof that the administration has decided to put the fate of its patients in the hands of private businesses that will certainly prioritize its profits over services.

Department of Health (DOH) Assistant Secretary Enrique Tayag claims that the new POC will still remain a ‘government hospital’ despite being part of the PPP program. However, the question is not whether it will remain a government hospital or not, but if health care will still remain accessible.

Aquino has made it evident that his real interest in privatizing public hospitals is to help big corporations gain more profits at the expense of sick Filipinos.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasized that healthcare is a human right and should be provided by the state.

The administration actually has the funds to modernize the country’s public hospitals, but instead these funds are going to the pork barrel of Aquino and other politicians, other sources of corruption, and payments for foreign debt.