No meds, supplies at Bukidnon hospitals? Where did at least P10.8 million petty cash go?

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/05 October) The Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center, Bukidnon’s premier government hospital, used a total of P7.6 million of petty cash funds from March to August 2012, a source at the Capitol said showing a copy of an official report.

The amount is part of a total of at least P10.8 million spent by Bukidnon provincial hospitals to buy medicines and supplies in a period of six months covered in the report.

The report showed that the BPMC has a P200,000-petty cash fund, which can be replenished if 75 percent or P150,000 is spent. The fund was replenished at an average of twice weekly for the six months, the source said citing the report.

“How come there is a problem of supply of medicines and medical supplies in the hospitals?” the highly-placed source, added.

Lawyer Jeffrey Sayson, provincial legal officer, confirmed to this reporter  Friday seeing the report but added that the investigation he is heading has to confirm its veracity and its source.

He confirmed receiving a copy of the same report showed by the Bukidnon News source, which was handed to him from the Provincial Accountant’s Office. But he noted that when he received it, there was no letter head and it was unsigned.

About P7.6 million or 70 percent of the amount, Sayson confirmed to have been indicated in the report, were attributed to the BPMC.

He clarified that the probe is still on-going, open-ended and is not necessarily zeroed in on the hospital administrators only.

Sayson said he intends to prepare a written report, validate it with officials concerned, and present his report in the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan next Wednesday.

The provincial government has started an internal inquiry on the reported woes at the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center (BPMC) and six other branches of the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital, Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr told reporters Wednesday.

He said he has instructed Sayson to probe on the problem and propose a solution, which they can present to Commission on Audit officials in a meeting.

Sayson confirmed that Zubiri tasked him in a closed-door meeting Wednesday to lead an internal fact-finding team to see the bottom of the problem.

In that closed door meeting, Zubiri and Gov. Alex Calingasan sat side by side at the provincial board session hall before board members and other provincial government officials including hospital administrators and doctors to discuss the problem.

Zubiri clarified to reporters that they are investigating the problem and will seek advice from the COA for solutions to fix the problems “within the bounds of the law.”

“We will seek clearance from COA on how to correct the wrong,” he said, before apologizing for the problems at the provincial government hospitals.

“Forgive us, it will never happen again,” he added in a press conference at the back room of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan session hall.

Reports of no medicines and medical supplies among public hospitals, especially the BPMC, hogged the headlines, again, recently.

Provincial board member Ranulfo Pepito in a privilege speech on September 26 at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s regular session questioned the lack of supplies and medicines at the BPMC citing that some patients were allegedly refused admission because of the problem.

Pepito said he received reports from a Valencia City-based private hospital that they admitted patients, whom the BPMC allegedly refused due to lack of supplies and medicines. He clarified that the patients were referred to other hospitals.

The board member reported those two patients from Valencia, one who was stabbed and another with a serious ailment, were allegedly referred to the private hospital in the next city because the BPMC did not have oxygen and x-ray film, among others. The latter patient eventually died, Pepito said.

Reacting to the speech, Zubiri told this reporter the problem is two-faced.

One is the problem of single-player bidding process, which he said was the reason why the Sangguniang Panlalawigan did not grant authority to the executive branch. Zubiri in an earlier interview estimated a total of P23 million purchases made with single bidders.  In the October 3 press conference he cited P19 million.

Calingasan told this reporter Thursday the government procurement laws allow single bidder transactions as long as it was posted on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS), which was whathe said they did.

The governor added that the SP scrutiny delayed the purchase of medicines. But he hailed Zubiri’s scrutiny.

Both officials said “it saved them from possible legal problems.”

Zubiri cited that the second problem was unauthorized delivery of supplies and medicines that reached an estimated amount of P16 -18 million.

Officials told reporters later that hospital administrators used petty cash funds to buy the medicines. Zubiri said those were “unauthorized transactions”.

Zubiri said hospital administrators of seven of the province’s eight hospitals “are answerable.”

He noted that another level of the problem in Bukidnon’s hospitals is its annual accreditation with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth). He said Philhealth officials have scheduled an “investigation” on September. But he said they agreed to forego it after he requested a 60-day postponement.

He cited that Philhealth regional head Masiding Alonto agreed to move the accreditation process to November 5 to give the provincial government time to “normalize” the hospital operations.

He also vowed that “hopefully at the end of October (2012), there will be medicines (and medical supplies) again in the hospitals. He said he witnessed last week the bidding of medicines and medical supplies worth around P50 million. He said earlier that about 32 suppliers participated.

The new stocks, he said, could last for six months and is allotted to supply provincial government hospitals from October 2012 to March 2013. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)