THE Philippine Red Cross, the foremost humanitarian organization in the country that recently reached a milestone in the fight against COVID-19 with one million tests conducted, was forced starting yesterday to cease conducting tests chargeable to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth.
In a statement, the PRC said it will only complete all specimens from tests chargeable to the PhilHealth that were submitted to them up to 11:59 pm of Oct. 14, adding that after that they would no longer be accepting specimens for testing of overseas Filipino workers; those arriving in airports and seaports; individuals through the mega swabbing facilities and through the local government units; frontline health and government workers; and others included in the expanded testing guidelines of the Department of Health covered by PhilHealth. until the overdue balance of P930,993,000 is paid by the government health insurer.
“However, as the PRC continues to face challenges with PhilHealth due to its inability to settle its ever increasing outstanding balance to the PRC, we are constrained to cease conducting tests chargeable to PhilHealth effective today, 14 October 2020. This will remain until the overdue balance of P930,993,000.00 is paid by PhilHealth,” the statement read.
But the PRC shall continue to test the following:
1. Individuals who booked their testing through the 1158 Helpline of the PRC or online at book.redcross1158.com;
2. Private companies and organizations; and
3. Local government units and other government agencies with laboratory testing agreements with the PRC and whose payments are up to date.
The PRC said that while it is a difficult decision for a humanitarian organization to make, it does not have unlimited resources to replenish the testing kits for its laboratories unless PhilHealth, its major creditor, settles its lawful obligations.
“The PRC needs the resources to procure test kits and reagents from China. Each of these orders require about $6 million per order. The PRC cannot commit to these orders unless it has the finances to pay for the orders. This is what makes PhilHealth’s settlement of its outstanding obligations critical…Other than the testing kits, the PRC also needs resources to operate its 21 laboratories in strategic areas in the country capable of doing 42,000 tests per day. Likewise, the PRC has to pay more than 300 medical technologists, swabbers encoders, and pathologists, and provide for their PPEs, regular tests, and even meals, accommodation, and transportation to be able to test at such a massive scale and maintain 24/7 operations of its laboratories,” it explained.
The PRC has made its nationwide network of molecular test laboratories MTL available to government agencies’ requests to test their frontliners, returning residents and other priority cases following a memorandum of agreement with PhilHealth that the latter will reimburse PRC for these priority tests requested by various government agencies.
Unfortunately, PhilHealth failed to meet its obligations and the total billings sent by the PRC to PhilHealth stand at P1,014,975,500 as of Oct. 13. Of this amount, P930,993,000 represents overdue amounts. PhilHealth’s last payment was made on Sept. 8.
Senator Richard J. Gordon, PRC chairman and CEO already met with PhilHealth President and CEO Atty. Dante A. Gierran, DOH Secretary and PhilHealth Chairman Francisco T. Duque III and Secretary Vivencio Dizon last Sept. 25 when Gerran reiterated the intent of PhilHealth to pay its obligations but to give him time to settle into his new position.
However, no payment has been made to date.