Free hospital, health aid in Manila assured

By ROY C. MABASA
April 14, 2007, 8:00am

Irked by criticisms of his health programs, Manila Mayor Lito Atienza lashed out at his detractors even as he assured city residents that City Hall continues to provide free vital health services to the public.

Atienza stressed that services offered by the four big, modern city-run hospitals and 49 health centers have always gotten a huge chunk of the annual city budget because health has always been a priority in the human development plank of the "Buhayin ang Maynila" centerpiece program of his administration.

He said the record is clear that public elementary and high schools, along with the health facilities, have enjoyed priority in the nearly nine years he has served the mayorship.

For this year, the Manila Health Department has an outlay of P390.4 million, primarily to cover expenses for the purchase of drugs and medicine; medical, dental, and laboratory supplies, the expanded program on immunization, medical outreach and barangay-based disease prevention.

The premier city hospital, Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center in Malate, has a budget of P253.6 million. The Ospital ng Maynila has in fact been the recipient of the prestigious ANVIL award and has received citations in recognition of its Class A medical services and facilities.

The three other modern hospitals that get generous support from City Hall are strategically located in the city’s biggest districts. These hospitals and their 2007 budgets are: The Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center in Tondo (P186.6million); the Ospital ng Tondo (P64.420 million) and the Ospital ng Sampaloc (P69.296 million).

Roughly, the budgets of the Manila Health Department and the four major hospitals alone total P964 million, or nearly one-seventh of the total city budget of P6.8 billion.

Mayor Atienza also clarified that these hospitals were built by Mayors Antonio Villegas, Ramon Bagatsing and Gemiliano Lopez contrary to claims by other parties seeking credit for such. "In fairness to former Mayors Villegas, Bagatsing and Lopez, they had the vision to set up these modern hospitals. My administration’s contribution is in modernizing and expanding them, and making sure they continue to provide free adequate services to city residents," Mayor Atienza said.

The health centers, scattered across the city’s six districts, supplement the services of the hospitals by providing preventive and curative public health care for Manila families, especially for mothers and babies. (Roy C. Mabasa)