Metro LGUs at moderate risk

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    OCTA says COVID spread slowing down in the region

    THE independent OCTA Research group yesterday said all local government units in the National Capital Region are now at “moderate risk” from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as it noted that for the first time since early August, the country is seeing less than 10,000 daily new cases.

    In a social media post, OCTA fellow Guido David said the region’s 16 cities and 1 municipality were classified as moderate risk as they have been seeing negative case growth rates.

    David said Metro Manila’s overall seven-day average in new cases dropped to 1,847, which is 30 percent lower than the previous week’s average.

    All reproduction rates of the 17 LGUs are also at “low risk” classifications.

    OCTA said the reproduction number in the NCR is now at 0.60.

    And reflective of the NCR downtrend, David said COVID-19 cases all over the country are also decreasing.

    David said the country is already seeing under 10,000 cases for the first time since August 5 to 11, with the seven-day average dropping to 9,648.

    He said the latest figures bring the country’s reproduction number at 0.68, as of October 13, which is a huge dip from the 0.76 nationwide reproduction rate just a week ago.

    Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said government-run hospitals should stop charging patients for their confinements, and instead use their billions of pesos in off-budget income accumulated over the years.

    “Why should we still charge patients’ hospitalization fees at a time of pandemic? Should it be that the amount be used to cushion the suffering of our people who are confined in government hospitals?” Lacson said during the 2022 budget proposal briefing of the Department of Health on Wednesday afternoon.

    Lacson noted figures from the Budget Expenditure and Sources of Financing (BESF) where it was indicated that the DOH’s off-budget accounts retained income for 2021 hospital fees has reached P448.439 billion.

    Off-budget accounts under the BESF reflect the retained income/receipts for the DOH from all its “retained hospitals” with the following sources/nature of revenues: hospital fees, drugs and medicines, rent/lease income, seminar/training fees, certification fees, income from hostels/dormitories and other similar facilities, income from printing and publication, and other business income.

    The class/nature of its expenditures only indicated “augmentation of MOOE (monthly operating and other expenses) and CO (capital outlay).

    Lacson also presented the DOH’s off-budget accounts the past years — P4.789 billion in 2016, P9.092 billion in 2017, P6.156 billion in 2018, P7.667 billion in 2019, and P8.035 billion in 2020.

    He said the Philippines is among the few countries “without zero billing in government hospitals,” adding that in other countries like Cuba, citizens do not pay hospitalization fees if they are confined.

    “It doesn’t make sense that the DOH does not spend its off-budget accounts and yet is still punishing our patients by billing them, especially during the time of COVID when so many have lost their livelihood… It’s rather cruel for government hospitals to be charging patients when so much is left in their off-budget accounts,” Lacson said.

    Citing information from his office, Duque told Lacson there was an error in the entry of data, saying the off-budget account for 2021 was P21.3 billion, not P448.439 billion as reflected in the BESF.

    He explained that the Eastern Visayas Medical Center submitted inaccurate figures that should have only been P448 million, and not P448 billion.

    Duque said the DOH will coordinate with the Department of Budget and Management so the necessary corrections can be made even as he assured senators that the DOH will still review hospital incomes due to the huge amounts involved. – With Raymond Africa