During his State of the Province Address last week, Governor Joseph Cua reiterated his administration’s desire to rehabilitate and upgrade the provincial hospital into a Level III health facility.
Due to the provincial government’s limited funding, he said he has lobbied for funds at the national level and, through his “tukayo” Gov. Joseph Edwin “Boboy” Hamor, got the commitment of Senator Chiz Escudero to allocate P100 million for the rehabilitation and improvement of the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC).
This, he said, is in addition to his administration’s efforts to provide a CT Scan facility at EBMC and the operation of the 10-unit Hemodialysis Center in two months’ time.
Cua stressed that he will continue to focus on the improvement of EBMC from Level II to Level III hospital as per Department of Health (DOH) standards, as it would be in consonance with the plans of the Catanduanes State University to open Medicine courses.
This is the reason why the provincial government hired an expert to help craft a master plan for the improvement of the facilities and services of EBMC and the district hospitals, the chief executive said.
The Cua administration’s seriousness in pursuing the hospital’s upgrading stems from its decade-long effort to make it profitable as an economic enterprise.
Records will show that the Capitol heavily subsidized the operation of the hospital for most, if not all, of its operation as an eco-enterprise, as it could not earn enough income to pay for the salaries and benefits of its personnel.
Then, just as it managed to keep its head above the water, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and EBMC went back under.
During those years, the Commission on Audit consistently recommended that the EBMC be reverted back to its old status as an office under the provincial government.
But like the genie that cannot be put back into the bottle, the provincial hospital is likely to remain as is for the rest of its life.
Its conversion into an eco-enterprise allowed the provincial government to standardize the salaries of its officials and employees, which could not be undone.
Bringing back the hospital into its fold would be too much a burden for its finances, especially now that the national government has slashed the LGUs’ National Tax Allotments in the second year of the Mandanas ruling’s implementation.
Thus, the Cua administration is pinning its hopes on Sen. Escudero’s pledge and the ability of Sorsogon governor to navigate the waters of Malacanang and catch the fish with P100-million in its mouth, so to speak.
Then it would have to carefully use the money where it is really needed.
This would be easier said than done like the chances of getting that P100 million kitty from the national government that is still reeling from recent disasters.
Lest they be disappointed, the people should harken to the advice of Catanduanes State University President Patrick Alain Azanza regarding fears that he would leave his post for the more prestigious UP presidency.
Let us just wait and see if the governor indeed gets his wish.
If he does and indeed transforms the EBMC, let us not be stingy with the applause.