Don’t politicize medical aid – COA

By: Gerome Dalipe

INDIGENT patients can avail themselves of medical assistance from 11 district hospitals and a provincial hospital managed by the Iloilo Provincial Government.

This privilege is pursuant to Administrative Order 2017-003 issued by the Department of Health (DOH), which provides guidelines for the release of medical assistance to all qualified indigents.

Unfortunately, some hospital chiefs failed to comply with the mandate, the Commission on Audit (COA) found out.

The hospital heads extended medical assistance to indigents who could present endorsements from politicians.

“The amount of medical assistance extended to patients of the district hospitals…showed signs of political influence that may deprive other qualified indigent patients/clients to avail of the benefit,” read the COA 2018 report.

DOH Administrative Order 2017-0003 provides for fund administration and authorization in the grant of medical assistance.

Pursuant to the DOH policy, medical assistance to a patient should be based on need and per recommendation by the medical social worker, attending physician, and to be approved by the hospital chief.

The medical assistance is also subject to the availability of funds. The district hospital chief or his authorized personnel can release up to P250,000 per patient.

Unfortunately, most of the amounts of medical aid extended to indigent patients did not have the approval of the hospital chief.

Based on their review, the auditors said the hospital social worker officer confirmed that patients were categorized in accordance with the result of the “bio-psycho-socio assessment tool.”

Based on this assessment, the social worker officer determines the category of financial capability of the patient and decides on the amount of medical aid to be extended.

The indigent patient also needs to secure certification of indecency from the Municipal Social Welfare Offices (MSWO).

The request for certification may be lodged with the MSWO if the amount of medical assistance being requested does not exceed P5,000.

If the requested amount exceeds P5,000, the appeal should be made with Hospital Management Office.

But some district hospitals require the approval of certain political figures or their representative before assistance may be granted.

“In addition to the above documents, they required guarantee letters or similar documents affixing the signature of political figures or his representative for the corresponding assistance to be granted,” the auditors said.

But the auditors said the hospital chiefs should not intervene on the grant of medical assistance to indigents considering they have a lot of things to do such as overseeing the functions of the hospitals.

“The existing hospital’s practice showed laxity and absence of control, exposing the hospital to the risk that independent and objective identification and grant of medical assistance may not be achieved,” read COA report.

Nonetheless, the auditors clarified the DOH did not authorize hospital chiefs to grant the medical assistance to the indigent.

The medical assistance fund did not come from any politicians, but from the health department. Such aid should be extended to all qualified indigents, and not just to those endorsed by politicians, the auditors said.

The auditors warned hospital chiefs that they could be held liable for any deficiencies in the implementation of medical assistance.

Likewise, the auditors urged the governor to direct the Hospital Management Office and the hospital chiefs to conduct an independent and objectively assessed.

“Stop the practice of soliciting approval from any political figure or any unauthorized official and do not allow their intervention (in the grant of the medical aide),” read the COA report.