IS THE dispute surrounding the spinoff of the UST Hospital into a separate corporation and the construction of a 17-story hospital tower finally coming to an end?

US-based Medicine alumni have come out in support of the hospital’s bid to emerge out of financial ruin, answering various allegations fed by the opponents of the expansion project to a few newspaper columnists.

In a statement published in the Philippine Star last June 15, Stella Evangelista, director of the UST Medical Alumni Association of America, defended UST’s decision to create a separate corporation out of the hospital. The P3-billion hospital tower expansion will push through, she clarified.

Contrary to allegations by Star columnist Federico D. Pascual in Postcript last June 3 and BusinessMirror columnist Lito Gagni in Market Files last March, Evangelista said Dominican priests on the hospital board did not use their personal money to put up the corporation.

The columnists had insinuated that UST has lost control over the hospital despite the fact that University officials dominate the hospital’s board of trustees.

“UST Hospital Inc. is still a non-stock, non-profit organization of which UST remains the main owner,” Evangelista said in the statement.

Under the hospital by-laws, nine out of 12 members of the board of trustees must be Dominican priests assigned in UST, appointed by the University.

The Provincial of the Dominican Order in the Philippines, the Rector, the Vice-Rector, the Vice-Rector for Finance, and the Secretary-General of the University are ex-officio members.

Evangelista pointed out that hospital Chief Executive Officer Cenon Alfonso has turned UST Hospital’s Pay and Clinical divisions around, generating profit for the first time after years of heavy losses, and achieving a higher occupancy rate.

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In an interview with the Varsitarian last January, Alfonso said that after separating from the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in September 2004, the hospital was able to recover from a net loss of P57.4 million that year, earning a net income of P35.9 million in 2005.

The spinoff gave birth to UST Hospital Inc., a non-stock, non-profit entity that manages the hospital’s Pay and Clinical divisions, which had been in the brink of bankruptcy and in dire need of upgrading and modernization.

Under the arrangement, UST transferred hospital equipment to the new corporation under a deed of donation. The hospital will pay P400 per square foot for the land and building under a lease agreement with the University, with the lease rate renewed annually for 50 years.

Evangelista said the hospital is a charitable institution, noting that the Clinical Division remains the only private charity hospital in the Philippines with 460 beds, subsidized by the Pay Division.

Evangelista belied reports by BusinessMirror columnist Margaret Jao-Grey in her Not Business As Usual column that the construction of the hospital tower was stopped by the Vatican because of the controversy.

She said the Master-General of the Dominican Order based in Rome and the Provincial of the Order of the Preachers in the Philippines have in fact authorized UST Rector Fr. Ernesto Arceo, O.P. to reorganize the UST Hospital.

“Modernization and updating of (UST Hospital) that includes the construction of the Benavides Cancer Center, the UST Hospital Tower and Medical offices, creation and improvement of medical programs and services, are proceeding as planned,” Evangelista said.

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“We have issued these statements to categorically put an end to the rumors and controversies hounding the (UST Hospital) and the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery,” Evangelista said.

Evangelista said that Alfonso and the newly installed dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Maria Graciela Garayblas-Gonzaga, have brought together all department heads and “ensured their commitment to lead medical education and residency training at the (hospital).”

The medical alumni association, which has endowment fund of more than $2.6 million, was earlier reported to have suspended all donations to the hospital because of the dispute.

The group donates to indigent patients through the Lingkod E.R. Foundation and the hospital’s Sts. Cosmas and Damian Indigency Trust Fund.

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