Manila hospital lays off workers due to COVID-19 losses, says gov’t insurer owes it millions

University of Santo Tomas Hospital. Photo: Ramon Vasquez/Wikipedia
University of Santo Tomas Hospital. Photo: Ramon Vasquez/Wikipedia

The University of Santo Tomas Hospital (USTH) in Sampaloc, Manila has retrenched its workers following massive financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its medical director Dr. Marcellus Francis Ramirez announced yesterday.

Ramirez said in a statement sent to campus publication The Varsitarian that some recovered COVID-19 patients were released despite being unable to pay their bills. He added that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), the state insurer, also owes USTH at least PHP180 million (US$3.5 million), which accounts for the hospital bills of COVID-19 patients.

“While PhilHealth has instituted healthcare coverage of admitted CoVid patients, reimbursement is delayed by an average of 5-6 months. Currently, the receivable of USTH from PhilHealth stands at more than P180 million and counting,” he said.

Read: More major Metro Manila hospitals declare full capacity, shut to COVID-19 patients

“Despite the foregoing, the hospital continues to operate and pay utilities, (electricity, water, and communications, etc.) services (security and janitorial services and waste management, etc), medications and supplies needed for patients, and for the salaries of employees most of whom are on leave,” he said.

Ramirez added that many employees have been unable to report for work due to the suspension of mass transport amidst the enhanced community quarantine. Meanwhile, other employees have been forbidden by their family members to work due to the dangers posed by COVID-19.

“We have no idea when our operations will return to normal and we are uncertain if we can actually fully operate within the year…[P]ainful decisions were needed to be made. While the news around significantly highlights the health and medical impact of the pandemic, the huge economic and financial impact brought about by this crisis to all business establishments, most especially to healthcare institutions, is often overlooked,” he said.

Read: Pasig City hospital tells people to look for treatment elsewhere due to COVID-19 overcrowding

He added that the retrenchment was reviewed by the hospital’s lawyers and that they have complied with all legal requirements, “such as the notification to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the 30-day notice to the affected employees.”

The hospital will start retrenching staff who just joined the organization, based on “the principle of last in first out.” Those who would be let go will receive a 150% separation pay.

Meanwhile, UST Hospital Union President Donald Siazon told ABS-CBN News that the employees should not have been affected by USTH’s problems with PhilHealth. He added that the employees wish to have a discussion with the hospital regarding the retrenchment.


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