THE Philippine Red Cross chairperson, Senator Richard J. Gordon, did not take offense in President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s remark that the humanitarian organization is “greedy,” but warned that the country’s leader should be more cautious with his public remarks as he could be “misled” by some of his Cabinet officials.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte slammed Red Cross on Thursday evening in a televised meeting with some Cabinet members, calling it “mukhang pera” for halting testing services for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) after collectibles from state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) ballooned to about P1 billion.
“I’m not offended,” Mr. Gordon said in a press conference Friday, “I think the President should really be careful. Sometimes he is not aware that his statement is not really presidential.”
Mr. Gordon alleged that Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, who sits as PhilHealth board chair, is possibly feeding the President wrong information. “I think he was misled by the statement. Because the way the predicate was laid by Secretary Duque was wrong,” said the senator.
A majority of senators, including administration allies but excluding Mr. Gordon, filed a resolution in April calling for Mr. Duque’s resignation citing his poor handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mr. Gordon said PhilHealth has so far paid P700 million of its dues to the Red Cross, and P377 million remains outstanding.
TESTING PRICE RANGE
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DoH) on Friday said a price range for COVID-19 tests will be released possibly by next week.
In an online forum with reporters on Friday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire said the DoH and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are “studying carefully” the price range for testing kits.
She added that a final draft of the joint circular is already with DTI, and this will be presented to stakeholders before issuance.
DoH said the price range setting is based on the World Health Organization’s laboratory test costing tool, maximum drug retail price model, and suggested retail price based on a survey.
Mr. Duterte recently signed Executive Order No. 118, which ordered the DoH and DTI to formulate the price range on COVID-19 testing that “is just, equitable, and sensitive to all stakeholders.”
The directive was issued following reports on high costs of COVID-19 tests in some health facilities.
In another health-related development, Quezon City Rep. Alfred D. Vargas appealed to PhilHealth to resume its extended free dialysis program immediately, saying its decision to temporarily halt its promised 90-session limit hurts patients who have been affected by the pandemic.
“It is unconscionable to have our indigent dialysis patients scrounge around for money amid record unemployment and rising poverty during this pandemic,” Mr. Vargas said in a statement on Friday.
Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which recognizes the existence of a national emergency and economic disruption due to a coronavirus pandemic, provided PhilHealth the basis to for “the provision of special privileges such as exemption from the 45-days limit or the 90- session limit per calendar year in the case of hemodialysis patients.”
House Minority Deputy Speaker Carlos Isagani T. Zarate said should PhilHealth and the DoH refuse to act on the issue, the House Makabayan bloc will initiate a legislative probe. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Gillian M. Cortez