Despite the Arroyo government’s claims of a “social payback” in exchange for the reformed value-added tax, health continues to take a low priority in the national budget.

Although the overall government health budget in the proposed 2008 national budget grew 24% to P22.9 billion from P18.4 billion in 2007, government hospitals that provide direct service to poor Filipinos have
falling allocations. For example, the budget of 55 government hospitals and medical centers nationwide was slashed by 12% to P3.7 billion from P4.2 billion this year.

Meanwhile, allocations for the operation of a dozen special hospitals, medical centers and institutes for disease prevention and control were reduced by P121 million to P2.6 billion. These hospitals include those
frequented by the poor, such as the Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital and Tondo Medical Center.

Budgetary support for the major specialty hospitals, such as the Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine Heart Center and Philippine Children’s Medical Center were cut even more drastically by 22% to just
P793.6 million. The subsidy for indigent patients was similarly cut by 63%, to P6 million or P10 million less than last year.

Government’s skewed priorities with regard to health spending was further highlighted by the fact that it allotted P1.3 billion in capital outlays for a Health Facilities Enhancement Program likely to be
accessible mainly to those with the ability to pay, while a mere P6million increase was granted for the “Doctors to the Barrios and Rural Health Practice” programs, which work with a mere P42.3 million.


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