Palace: No irregularities in Davao hospital IRM
“We find nothing irregular in the PhilHealth Interim Reimbursement Mechanism allocation of Southern Philippines Medical Center,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said yesterday.
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Palace: No irregularities in Davao hospital IRM
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - August 13, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang finds nothing wrong with a recent finding during a House inquiry that the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in President Duterte’s home city of Davao received P326 million – the highest amount of claims from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) for coronavirus treatments.

“We find nothing irregular in the PhilHealth Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) allocation of Southern Philippines Medical Center,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said yesterday.

He justified the SPMC’s multimillion-pesoreimbursement, noting that it is the biggest government hospital in the country.

“SPMC, for the information of everyone, is a 1,500-bed hospital with almost 3,600 personnel. Per DOH, it is the biggest hospital facility in the country as a government hospital. Last year, the hospital total admissions were 76,586. There were also 586,278 outpatients in the same period,” Roque said.

SPMC received P326 million from PhilHealth, when the Philippine General Hospital in Manila got P263.3 million even if the PGH is among the first COVID-19 referral hospitals in the country. PhilHealth officials also said that SPMC became the number one recipient of IRM since they have the highest number of reimbursement and claims filed for 2019.

Duterte appointed last June former SPMC chief Dr. Leopoldo Vega as undersecretary of the Department of Health (DOH) to further help in the campaign against COVID-19.

He was at the helm of the Davao hospital prior to his appointment to the DOH portfolio.

Roque said SPMC has several integrated specialty buildings which are stand alone, like the Heart Institute, Institute for Women and Newborn Care, Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Institute, Cancer Institute, Intensive Care Complex and the main hospital for General Medicine and Surgery. It has the biggest hemodialysis facility in the country with 65 dialysis chairs.

According to Roque, SPMC also has the highest PhilHealth income, breaking the billion-peso mark.

Its average income for 2018-2019 is P1.2 billion and IRM is based on the monthly average or the track record of reimbursement for 2018-19.

Historically, SPMC has had the biggest amount of claims due to its regular provision of healthcare services to patients all over Mindanao, the Palace official added.

Soldier of courage

President Duterte views PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales as a “soldier of courage and principles” but he won’t hesitate to fire him if there is proof that he is involved in anomalies, Malacañang said yesterday.

Palace spokesman Roque said Morales’ fate hinges on the findings of the multi-agency task force formed to look into the alleged corruption and fraudulent activities in the state-run insurer.

“As far as the fate of general Morales is concerned, the President has said, ‘I believe in his integrity, I believe he is a soldier of courage and of principles.’ But he will await the results of the task force,” Roque told CNN Philippines.

“He (Duterte) has said that I don’t care if you were my political supporter, I don’t care if you’re close (to me), if you’re corrupt then you will have to go,” he added.

PhilHealth, which administers the national health insurance program, is facing scrutiny following allegations that billions in funds were lost due to a culture of corruption and illegal acts carried out by a “mafia.” Investigators are also looking into the alleged purchase of overpriced coronavirus test kits and information technology equipment and the supposed padding of hospital claims.

PhilHealth officials have expressed readiness to cooperate with investigators, saying they have nothing to hide.

Roque said Duterte won’t pressure Morales to take a leave of absence, noting that the PhilHealth chief has a serious illness. Morales, a retired Army general, is suffering from lymphoma and has been advised by his doctor to go on leave to undergo chemotherapy. The PhilHealth chief has said he would go on medical leave starting next week.

“The President is really a very kind person. Since Morales is sick, he will not add pressure to general Morales and I think that’s a good trait... not a bad one. It’s up to Morales what he wants to do but the process of investigation will continue,” Roque said.

Roque also said that Duterte believes that Morales is a man of principles, particularly his record during the Reform the Armed Forces Movement days – “a man of guts.”

But Duterte wants to await the decision of the task force, “that’s why he created it in the first place.”

Roque said the task force, composed of the justice department, the Office of the Ombudsman, Civil Service Commission, Office of the Executive Secretary, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and Palace Undersecretary Melchor Quitain, is expected to conclude its probe within 30 days.

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, the Senate and the House of Representatives are also investigating the purported irregularities in the state-run insurer. — Alexis Romero

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