COA report: ‘Red tape’ hampers operations of Iloilo hospitals

By Florence F. Hibionada
Philippine News Service (PNS)

ILOILO, PHILIPPINES – A disturbing pattern of delay has been established by the Commission On Audit (COA) on the procurement of medicines for Iloilo hospitals.

Delays that ranged from 171 days as in the case of 5 procurements of Dumangas District Hospital to the longest of 374 days as in the case of one procurement in Januiay’s Federico Roman Tirador Sr. Memorial District Hospital.

With government provisions on mandated “period of action on procurements,” the attention and action of the Iloilo Provincial Government (IPG) has now been called.

Subject of the COA findings were data gathered from various district hospitals under the IPG as culled from Purchase Requests (PRs) obtained by State Auditors.

The Commission as per analysis made on the sample PRs gathered got to confirm the pattern of delay translated into nearly P9 million worth of medicine procurements. In fact, of the 93 PRs scrutinized, only 21 or 23% met the “28 calendar period of action” while 72 PRs or 77% way exceeded the 124-maximum calendar-day period of action on procurement.

“It was observed that from the time the hospitals submitted their purchase requests to the Hospital Operations Management Service (HOMS), an office under the Provincial Health Office to which the hospitals directly submit their procurement requests, it also takes several days, based on herein data the longest is 33 days, for the said office to transmit the PRs to the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC),” the COA wrote.

Said delay in transmission caused the domino-effect of more delays that the COA said “resulted to the absence or insufficiency of medicines and medical supplies in different hospitals in the province of Iloilo.”

The problem was extensive that even commonly-used and essential medicines were depleted in hospital pharmacies.

“In fact, in order to provide the urgent need for these medicines and medical supplies, almost all hospitals are constrained to utilize a large portion of their petty cash fund although use of such fund should have been limited only to petty expenses,” COA lamented while adding that doing so, “the hospitals are also circumventing the rules on the proper use thereof.”

Philippine News Service (PNS) learned that in order to resolve the lack of medicines, common practice in Iloilo hospitals was to split into small amounts the purchases. This was done in order for the petty cash fund to accommodate the need.

Other instance common to all hospitals was to buy medicines from outside private pharmacies.

“If this scenario will continue unaddressed, the provincial government would be losing more income considering that this type of service is also one of those which are included in the return-incentives granted by PhilHealth, which ultimately redound to the benefit of both hospital personnel and the provincial government,” COA said. “The income lost by the provincial government brought about by the dwindling or nonexistence of these medicines could have been used to improve the delivery of hospital’s basic services.”

As such, COA called on the Capitol to “exert extra effort to speed up the procurement process for medicines and medical supplies as these are considered very vital and life-saving necessities in hospitals.”

Further still was COA’s call to have a separate BAC to attend to the hospitals’ needs pursuant to procurement law. While at it, revisit and evaluate existing procurement process, COA added, then make proper changes to attain efficiency.

“Red tape is seen as one reason for the delay hence it is also recommended that the provincial government simplify things on this respect,” COA said.

Other notable delayed procurements of medicine were two purchases for Don Valerio Palmares Sr. Memorial District Hospital in Passi City similarly delayed for 158 days. Guimbal’s Rep. Pedro Trono Memorial District Hospital had 9 delayed major procurements ranging from 168 days to 238 days.

Lambunao’s Dr. Ricardo Ladrido Memorial Hospital had 14 procurement delays with the worst at 354 days.

Even medicines for the Iloilo Provincial Hospital faced considerable delays in 8 procurements with the longest delay of 197 days.