Senator seeks review of health budget spending

A SENATOR is calling for a review of the Department of Health’s (DoH) budget spending to check if allocated funds were actually used to procure equipment for treating coronavirus patients.

“In any war, we should always look at the logistics. For the frontlines to keep on fighting, the supply lines must keep on running,” Senate Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto said in a statement on Wednesday.

He said the Senate should start its “mandatory review” of the DoH’s disbursements to see if the funds meant for ventilators and intensive care unit (ICU) equipment were used.

Mr. Recto’s call came after reports of the “bungled” acquisition of 200 ICU beds offered by an Austrian company.

Presidential Spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr., in a televised briefing on Tuesday, denied the reports and said the department is in talks with an Austrian company for 200 ICU beds.

Mr. Roque said the government had not considered the foreign company’s initial offer as it only covered 15 ICU beds. He said the Austrian company was expected to submit its new proposal this week.

Mr. Recto also said the increase of dedicated mechanical ventilators of hospitals for coronavirus patients from 1,446 units in May 2020 to 2,601 units this month “does not seem to be commensurate with the need.”

He added that it is unclear how many of these new ventilators were bought by the government and private hospitals. “The data should be unbundled so we will know the inventory in government hospitals,” he said.

The senator also noted that the DoH’s total budget for equipment and building from 2019 to 2020 stood at P43.7 billion.

This does not include the allocations of four hospitals in Quezon City classified as government corporations whose budgets were not included in DoH’s, Mr. Recto said.

He also said the three-year fund does not include the P35.51 billion under Bayanihan II, which authorized P3 billion for procurement of personal protective equipment and P4.5 billion for construction of isolation facilities and field hospitals. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas