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Health workers oppose suspension of PGH’s free lab services

MANILA, Philippines - Health workers are up in arms after the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) stopped providing free basic laboratory services to charity patients starting last Friday.

Jossel Ebesate, president of the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), said PGH’s decision is deplorable and detrimental to poor patients.

“They just came up with a memorandum, implementing that without consultation with the patients and even the implementers of services like the doctors, the nurses, the medical technologies and others. It is not beneficial to poor patients,” Ebesate said in Filipino.

He also claimed that the memorandum was dated July 4 and signed by PGH director Jose Gonzales and approved by the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines (UP) that runs the PGH.

The policy covers complete blood count, urinalysis, x-ray and other basic laboratory services.

In a statement to The STAR, Margarita Lat-Luna, PGH deputy director for fiscal services, denied that such free services had been suspended.

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“The statement is attributed to the fact that all lab exams have rates now, but it doesn’t automatically mean that the cost will not be waived,” Luna said.

“Rates were assigned so that we can quantify the cost of services that are not charged to the patients,” she noted.

“Monthly, we have reports of how much is waived. The first basic exams are automatically waived,” she added.

Ebesate, however, said that patients who want fees to be waived would have to seek approval from the department heads, thus prolonging the process.

“Before, patients have already had to endure a long wait before they could undergo free laboratory. With this policy, we can expect them to wait much longer because they have to get the approval first. It’s like having no free labs at all,” he added.

Ebesate also said that Gonzales first attempted to implement the policy “one or two years ago” but it had to be shelved when it met resistance from PGH personnel and patients.

“Now they are doing it again. They would cite lack of budget and that they just want to monitor the free services rendered to patients. But what they are sacrificing are the poor patients,” he noted.

Third-year Medicine student Adrian Sampang also expressed concerns that this development would deprive indigent patients of a chance to get quality services at the PGH because laboratory services are vital to the management of their illnesses.

“Being able to get free services is a big help for charity patients. In the first place, they won’t be going to PGH (charity section) if they have the money,” said Sampang, vice-chair of the UP-Manila University Student Council.

He also said that many indigent patients could not even afford some basic medical supplies like gauze and syringes, prompting “kind hearted” medicine students to provide it for them.

“In my personal opinion, services should be free for charity patients. The government should be providing quality and free services especially to those who can afford it,” he added.

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