Davao-based Southern Philippine Medical Center’s lion’s share: What criticisms hit and miss

August 13, 2020 - 7:42 PM
Southern Philippines Medical Center via Facebook

The embattled state insurer denied corruption in the release of cash advances to a public hospital in Davao city following the online buzz on it getting the biggest share.

During the Senate hearing on August 12, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) disclosed that the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, the president’s hometown, received the highest amount of funds dedicated to its response efforts against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

These funds were coursed through PhilHealth’s reimbursement program called the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism or IRM, which the agency’s top officials allegedly stole from.

Based on the top ten list presented to the senators, the SPMC received a hefty P326 million worth of IRM.

The Philippine General Hospital in Metro Manila, where the majority of the positive cases are located, only came second with P263.3 million.

The rest of the hospitals that received IRM for COVID-19 are:

  1. Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City: P209 million
  2. Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City: P204 million
  3. Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga: P201 million
  4. National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City: P179 million
  5. Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center: P165 million
  6. Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro: P150.2 million
  7. Quirino Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City: P150 million
  8. Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center in Tacloban City: P146.2 million


Some senators then questioned the disparity in the number of cash advances even if all health facilities across the country are affected by the pandemic.

‘No corruption and favoritism’

In a statement released on Facebook on August 13, Dr. Hector Zenon Leonardo Malate, Region XI PhilHealth Acting Vice President, “vehemently denied” corruption and favoritism of IRM in the region, particularly on SPMC.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON IRM RELEASE IN REGION XI 👇🏻We vehemently deny allegations of favoritism on IRM releases and corruption in the region.Read for more information.—#PROXIOfficialStatement

Posted by PhilHealth Region XI on Wednesday, August 12, 2020


“We vehemently deny allegations of favoritism on IRM releases or corruption in the region,” Malate said.

He then focused on SPMC and explained that the management followed PhilHealth’s 90-day “annual historical benefit claim” protocols and that the funds were also used for the hospital’s other health care services such as dialysis, chemotherapy and maternity benefits.

“The release of IRM funds in the region were made accordingly to facilities who have applied and passed all requirements, taking into great consideration that all ailing Filipinos needing PhilHealth benefits, COVID nor not, are continuously served during these challenging times,” Malate said.

Largest public hospital in the country?

At the same time, PhilHealth also issued its own statement on social media to refute alleged favoritism. It quoted Deputy House Speaker Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez (South Cotabato) who emphasized that the SPMC is considered the largest government hospital in the country.

“In one year ang pumupunta sa SPMC (ay) more than 76K hindi (pa) kasama ang 500K na outpatient,” Hernandez said.

“If you look on the average ang IRM niyan ay talagang mataas dahil… they cater to all Mindanaoans. Kase parang nagkakaroon ng malisya dahil located sa Davao, napapaboran. Hindi po,” he added.

"… SPMC I think is one of the biggest government hospital(s) in the country. In one year ang pumupunta sa SPMC (ay)…

Posted by Philippine Health Insurance Corporation on Wednesday, August 12, 2020


Malate also earlier said in his statement that SPMC is “the biggest COVID-19 referral hospital in Mindanao.”

Under the passage of Republic Act 11326 in 2019, the SPMC increased its bed capacity to 1,500, which surpassed UP-PGH and made the former the largest government hospital in the country.

The massive complex also houses several specialty centers for the poor and underprivileged in Mindanao such as the Dr. Rizal Aportadera Burn Center, the Mindanao Heart Center, and the Cancer Institute.

These facts were stressed by some Filipinos online who defended the hospital for receiving the largest allocation of IRM funds from PhilHealth.

What they missed

Several Filipinos, however, argued that Davao and Mindanao that the highest number of infections are in Manila and could have used the portion given to SPMC.

“We do not undermine the contribution of SPMC in helping in Mindanao. but a great portion of the COVID fund must be allocated to areas that would need the most. people are dying and healthcare is a basic need to those who are sick,” one user said.

“This is all well, and no doubt SPMC is deserving of extra funding. The highest COVID funding, however, of all medical institutions, for an area that has approx. 50x fewer cases than NCR? That’s the context, and why there’s skepticism,” another user said.

The map view of UP’s own COVID-19 tracker showed that the National Capital Region and Cebu have the highest number of active cases in the country as seen in the red-colored places.

Screenshot by Interaksyon at UP’s endcov.ph tracker

Overall, as of August 13, the Department of Health reported additional 4,002 confirmed COVID-19 cases which brought the country’s total cases to 147,526.

Of these, 74,713 are active cases.

Meanwhile, a total of 70,387 COVID-19 patients have recovered while deaths stood at 2,426.