Overseas Filipino workers hospital soon to rise

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Lawmakers led by House Speaker Arroyo is pushing for a hospital catering to overseas Filipino workers.

THREE House panels have approved a proposed law filed by former President and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo seeking to establish a hospital to cater to the health needs of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The House committees on health, appropriations, and ways and means adopted the measure that would provide for the establishment of a hospital with at least a tertiary level of care to be known as OFW Hospital.

Earlier, the proposal was approved by the panel as a substitute to House Bill (HB) Nos. 1672, 2187 and 4621 authored by Reps. Strike Revilla, Florida Robles and Maximo Rodriguez, Jr., respectively.

In her sponsorship statement, Speaker Arroyo said that her bill came about because of the events of Labor Day last May in which President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte in his speech called for a bill for workers.

“Of course we already have the ENDO (bill) which is in the Senate but we felt there should be another appropriate bill that we can file on the occasion of May 1, Labor Day,” the Speaker said.

Speaker Arroyo said that on that day also, they were in Pampanga for the groundbreaking ceremony for the OFW hospital that will be built on the land donated by the Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda to the Department of Health (DoH) and the hospital equipment to be provided by philanthropist Ricky Razon and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

She said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was there at the groundbreaking ceremony, together with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, mentioned that while the land and the building are now free, the DoH needs to have operating expenses.

“He said that in order to justify operating expenses to be budgeted every year, we need to have an enabling law providing for an OFW hospital,” said Arroyo.

The Speaker said she signed one because she was given the impression that the bill on the OFW hospital filed by Revilla was only for Cavite.

But she found out that subject to some amendments, the proposal of Revilla, which is also a general bill, can be adopted since it is acceptable in principle.

“I thank everybody for saying that my bill should be the primary bill. I don’t want to do that.  If Strike Revilla’s bill is acceptable in principle subject to certain amendments that the agencies felt should be put in, then go ahead. So I would like to identify myself with the bill of Congressman Strike Revilla,” said Arroyo.

The bill provides that the OFW Hospital referred to as the Hospital shall be developed consistent with the health care needs of the OFWs and their dependents.

It shall be under the full administrative and technical supervision of the DoH.

One objective of the OFW Hospital is to provide comprehensive health care services to all migrant workers who are Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) contributors and their legal dependents.

It aims to conduct medical examinations to ensure the physical and mental capability of would-be overseas contract workers duly covered by an approved job order.

The Hospital shall also serve as primary referral hospital for repatriated OFWs needing medical assistance and support.

It intends to set up systems that will effectively monitor the condition of patients and to generate relevant health information and data for policy formulation.

In addition, the Hospital is expected to participate in the health care provider networks and arrangements relative to the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 11223, or the Universal Health Care Act.

The bill mandates the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-OWWA to strengthen its existing health benefits and medical assistance programs to provide subsidies to the Hospital for qualified OFW and legal dependent patients.

The measure mandates the Secretary of Health to include in the DoH’s programs the implementation of the Act, the funding of which shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act. The OWWA shall also include in their benefits and medical assistance programs for OFW the line item budget necessary to improve the access of OFW and dependents to healthcare services.