SoCot Officials, DOH Officials Settle UVCH-SGH Transition

Koronadal City, South Cotabato – The Technical Working Group (TWG) for the Formulation of UVCH-SGH Transition Plan conducted its second meeting to implement the Transition Plan for 2020-2022 on October 6-7, 2020, at The Farm, Carpenter Hill, City of Koronadal.

The committee, headed by the Center for Health Development (CHD) Director, is composed of the Department of Health (DOH) Region XII, the Provincial Government of South Cotabato (PGSC), and others included upon the recommendation of the SOCCSKSARGEN CHD Director. The two-day meeting was attended by Governor Reynaldo S. Tamayo, Jr, DOH XII Regional Director Dr. Aristides C. Tan, DILG XII Regional Director Josephine Cabrido-Leysa, PGSC Provincial Legal Officer Atty. Marnito B. Cosep, and the officials, representatives, and legal officers of the PGSC, the DOH Region XII, the DILG Region XII, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Region XII.

The Transition Plan, which was first formulated in February 2020 by the TWG was once again reviewed and adopted. It “will serve as a guide that details the framework and implementation strategies and activities that will be conducted to ensure that smooth and efficient integration of the existing UVCH into a SOCCSKSARGEN General Hospital that will serve the entire population of Region XII.” It is composed of the following:

  1. Policies and Guidelines;
  2. Integration Framework Plan;
  3. Implementation Plan;
  4. Social Preparation/Communication Plan; and
  5. Monitoring and Evaluation Plan.

The General Provisions under the Policies and Guidelines, among others, are as follows:

  1. This plan shall govern the transition period for UVCH-SGH integration for a period of three (3) years beginning January 1, 2020.
  2. The Provincial Government of South Cotabato (PGSC) shall continue to administer and supervise UVCH/SGH Operations during the transition period.
  3. The UVCH/SGH shall continue to uphold the Free Hospitalization Program of the PGSC during the transition period. After the transition period, the PGSC shall allocate a subsidy to SGH for the continuity of the Free Hospitalization Program, which can be availed only by bonafide residents of the Province of South Cotabato.
  4. The future direction of development and operation of SGH shall be consistent with and compliant to the national policy and ISO certification standards of service.

Part IV: Implementation Plan of the said Transition Plan provides that “the transition period for the integration of UVCH as SGH shall have a period of three (3) years that will commence on January 1, 2020 and will expire on December 31, 2022. However, the final turn-over is scheduled to take place sometime in June 2022 to coincide with the three-year period since the signing of the MOA by both parties in June 2019. The activities were basically divided according to the transition plan focus areas, with additional items for the preparation of the transition plan and the formal turn-over activity. The five (5) focus areas are: a) Health Human Resource Management, b) Financial Management, c) Infrastructure and Health Facilities Development, d) Property, Equipment, Records and Supply Management, and e) Operations, Systems Development and Quality Management.”

Unfortunately, before the activities outlined in the Transition Plan could be conducted and implemented, COVID-19 started to wreak havoc. Following the issuance of Proclamation No. 922 on March 8, 2020 that places the entire country under the State of Public Health Emergency, the entire province was also placed under a total lockdown. The SGH Transition Committee schedule of activities and meetings were indefinitely postponed and halted.

But let it be known however that the passage of RA 11102 does not automatically vest  the Department of  Health  (DOH)  title  over the  Upper Valley Community Hospital (UVCH), which is still owned and operated by the province. The land, (5-hectare lot) is titled in the name of the Provincial Government of South Cotabato. The facilities and equipment are still owned by the province. Hence, there is a need to execute a Usufruct Agreement with the DOH over the 5-hectare real property where the UVCH is established and to turn over whatever equipment the province wants to, and to administer the hospital until such time that the same is fully and completely handed to the DOH.

Moreover, the management, operation and supervision of the hospital must be sustained by the province until the same is fully turned over to the DOH because the medical staff and personnel serving the UVCH are integral component of the total human resources of the Provincial  Government of South Cotabato. As agreed and stipulated in the duly signed MOA,  personnel of the UVCH shall be given priority to be  hired and integrated  as part of the  DOH personnel who shall operate and serve the SOCCSKSARGEN  General Hospital. Hence, there is a proper protocol and process to be legally followed before the management and supervision of the UVCH is fully given to the SGH and the DOH.

Similarly, turning over the UVCH to the DOH at this precarious time of our country will not necessarily mean that the SGH is now a tertiary and end-referral hospital of SOCCSKSARGEN Region (Region XII). Again, the UVCH started its operation as an infirmary in January 2017 and as a 10-bed primary hospital a few months thereafter. Hence, there is an imperative need for the formulation, adoption and implementation of a transition plan as clearly indicated in the IRR and the MOA before the eventual full operation of the SGH. We must not give false hopes and enchanted aspirations to the people of South Cotabato and the entire Region XII.  SGH cannot operate as a functional tertiary and end-referral hospital overnight. But it is not because of the perceived delay of its turn over to the DOH.

However,  by reason of the COVID-19 pandemic, as  early as  April 2020,  the  Provincial Government of South Cotabato has already utilized and designated the UVCH or  SGH  in Surallah, South Cotabato as the  COVID-19 Center for the entire province of  South Cotabato. Executive Order No. 19 was issued to this effect. With the assistance and support of the South Cotabato Medical Society, PPEs, ventilators and volunteer medical personnel were provided to serve the COVID-19 patients free of charge. So contrary to the report of some media outlets, the COVID-19 Center in SGH has greatly helped the delivery of health services in the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital and its component municipal hospitals in Polomolok and Norala as these hospitals will no longer be catering COVID-19 patients, since they are now being catered and served at the COVID-19 Center in Surallah.

Moreover, the province  is the  first in the  country to have established a COVID-19 Testing Laboratory through the  Public Private Partnership (PPP)  with the Dr. Arturo P. Pingoy Medical Center (DAPPMC) in Koronadal City which began its testing activities in the first week of  June 2020.

Furthermore, the province is also among the first in the country to have implemented a local contact tracing for Covid-19, the South Cotabato COVID-19 Contact Tracing System (SC-CCTS) which is now being adopted by the entire Region XII (SOCCSKSARGEN) and adopted by the neighboring provinces and municipalities in Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental and other LGUS in Mindanao and Visayas.  In fact, the province’s SC-CCTS has been featured  in the United Nations General  Assembly (UNGA) just last September 24, 2020 as one of the great examples  of cross-sector  collaboration and thorough consultation  and which successfully targeted and included the most vulnerable sectors of the sector of the society who do not have access to technology in the fight against COVID-19.

It must be emphasized that the Cotabato Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in Cotabato City is the official end-referral hospital of all the government hospitals in the region – from Sarangani, South Cotabato, General Santos, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato Province. Established a long time ago and equipped with the necessary facilities, equipment and medical support personnel, the CRMC  must and should have been prepared and  ready as  a COVID-19 referral  hospital to cater  not  only  COVID-19 patients from South Cotabato but also from the entire  Region XII.

As to the allegations that the P200 Million building construction at the UVCH could not be possibly pursued and the withdrawal of the P45 Million MOOE of the DOH because of the alleged delay to turn over the UVCH to the DOH, the same are pure lies.  While there was suspension of work during the months of March, April and May because of the pandemic, the construction of the said P200 Million hospital is now ongoing at the UVCH (SGH). The DOH has also provided funds for the medicines and medical supplies as well as ten (10) job order (JO) health personnel to support the operation of the UVCH despite the pendency of the turn-over.

As already outlined in the Transition Plan, there should have been a hiring of 144 plantilla positions for the SGH this year.  However because of COVID-19, the posting of the positions and the screening of interested applicants have been stalled. In fact, the Transition Team has yet to meet again to discuss the implementation of the activities identified in the Transition Plan.

Truth be told, in the fight against COVID-19, Governor Reynaldo S. Tamayo, Jr never thinks of politics in every program and project that he is actively pursuing and implementing. The only thing that he thinks of is the protection and welfare of every South Cotabateño.

But we do not know of the other political leaders in the province these days. One thing is clearly shown though, there are politicians who strongly opposed when the UVCH (SGH) was declared and designated as COVID-19 Center for the province.  The same politicians also vigorously opposed the development and use of South Cotabato COVID-9 Contact Tracing System (SC-CCTS) which is now being adopted by the region and several LGUs in Mindanao and the Visayas. They also vehemently resisted the establishment of COVID-19 testing laboratory in DAPPMC through Public-Private Partnership.  All the 3Ts (Test Treat and Trace) being actively implemented by the DOH and the National IATF-EID, the Governor has also faithfully implemented.  But these politicians have orchestrated all the schemes that they can imagine to frustrate the programs and activities which are designed to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.