Sunday, November 9, 2008

Another loan, this time to replace an SP-condemed hospital

I have a copy of a document, the contents of which could determine whether our mga kasimanwa will die in penury or in ill-health in the next two years. Whether it’s the former or the latter, there is no choice, really, but to die for reasons I shall shortly explain.

This document is Sangguniang Panlalawigan Resolution No. 07-2008-66 dated July 8, 2008 granting authority to Governor Natalio Beltran III (God help us if there would be a Beltran IV) “to secure and negotiate a loan agreement with any private or government financing and/or banking institution for the construction of a new provincial hospital, including the purchase of hospital/medical equipment and supplies”.

Earlier, the Romblon Sun has headlined a story about this, but I am not sure if the paper’s reporters covered all the details. I will comment on it, though, by reading the fine print of the resolution.

It can be recalled that on February 22 this year, Gov. Beltran sought from the SP authority “to enter into a loan agreement, and to further negotiate the terms and conditions of the same, with any private or government financing and/or banking institution purposely for the construction of a new provincial hospital”.

The SP may not have acted on this first request and Gov. Beltran, for reasons known only to his sacred heart, wrote again on April 22 to “request for the revision of the earlier request” for authority. Notice the intention of the letter?

In his April 22 letter, Beltran said: “After a brief assessment of the foregoing request, the undersigned finds the need for the revision of the requested authority and to read: authorizing the undersigned to secure and negotiate for a loan agreement with any private or government financing and/or banking institution for the construction of a new provincial hospital, and to include the purchase of hospital/medical equipment and other supplies, and if an whenever a loan agreement has been reached, the same shall be subject to ratification by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan”.

On this basis, Gov. Beltran got the authority, and even as I write, he may already be on his way to the bank, laughing at the gullibility of his SP.

There is no news from the capitol as to what Gov. Beltran is doing with the authority now. Is he securing and negotiating for a loan agreement? If yes, with which private or public government bank? I don’t know. We all don’t know.

Going back to the SP, whose members could be so afraid not to give in to Beltran’s remonstration, we can safely narrate what they did to the governor’s letter when they received it.

First, they referred the letter to three SP committees—Legal Affairs, Ways and Means, and Health. This is to say they referred it to themselves. Got that?

Next, they issued a joint committee report. After that, they debated and finally, approved a resolution giving Gov. Beltran the authority.

It would be interesting to know what the SP members debated about. I’ll tell you.

They debated about Romblon’s existing debt with the Land Bank of the Philippines; on Romblon’s capacity to pay; on the site of the proposed new hospital; the possibility that doctors and other hospital personnel may not be available once a new hospital is erected; and on the new hospital’s sustainability.

These five issues were touched in the joint committee report, but only very mildly. There was no exhaustive study, scientific or voodoo, that could justify another loan. There was no persistent evaluation, no public consultation, and no deliberate attempt to obtain all facts before the decision.

I was told by a source that members of the committees never even visited the provincial hospital in Odiongan, yet, the joint committee report contained definitive conclusion that “the repairs of the existing hospital . . . is no longer structurally and economically feasible. The electrical wiring are dilapidated, the sewerage system, drainage, water faucets, plumbing, pipings (sic) and connections, roofing and others are rotten and dysfunctional due to wear and tear”.

And since when did the members of the committees become engineers and building experts to condemn a hospital? Was there a study or inspection that would merit such a sorry description of the province’s health facility?

Tuyar yaki nak masyaro’y it yuho ka provincial hospital, asing waya pa kina nakandadohi? Asing kina’y abrido pa?

If the hospital is really as described by our honorable SP members, aren’t we endangering the lives of the doctors and the patients in the medical facility? What are Gov. Beltran and the SP doing about it?

By all means, let us evacuate the patients now before the hospital’s roof caves in, or before its wiring electrocutes the nurses and patients, or even before its leaking faucets inundate the hospital rooms. Let us condemn the building if we have to, but let’s do it properly. Let the DPWH do the structural evaluation if it really is crumbling.

Let us not write about the dilapidated condition of the hospital in official government documents, such as an SP resolution, just to form a basis for a haphazard, ill-advised and misinformed decision of a governor.

(Next issue: A new hospital is hazardous to health, it will increase our debt)

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