ACTING RECTOR Fr. Rolando De la Rosa, O.P., has formed an ad hoc committee that will review the redevelopment plans for UST Hospital in accordance with the instructions of Fr. Carlos Alfonso Azpiroz Costa, O.P., master-general of the Dominican Order, the Varsitarian learned.

Father De la Rosa appointed Faculty of Engineering Regent Fr. Arthur Dingel, O.P. as executive assistant to the head of UST Hospital for the review and revision of the hospital development plans.

The Master wants the hospital redevelopment to continue, Father De la Rosa reiterated, but “within a level that can be afforded by the hospital and that cannot endanger the patrimony of the University.”

“What can I assure you is I am here to implement what the Master (of the Order of the Preachers) wants,” Father De la Rosa said. “The new committee is only temporary.”

A dispute among Dominicans over the separation and incorporation of the hospital in 2004 led to the sudden resignations of the prior provincial of the Filipino Dominicans, Fr. Edmund Nantes, O.P., Rector Fr. Ernesto Arceo, O.P., and Vice-Rector Juan Ponce, O.P. in September.

In a leadership shakeup, the Master ordered Father De la Rosa, a two-term UST rector, to return to his old post. Father Azpiroz also ordered the construction of a new hospital tower halted, the new corporation dissolved, and the P3-billion loan from a consortium of banks cancelled or renegotiated.

The transactions were deemed illegal under Canon Law as they did not have the approval of the Dominican Curia and the Vatican.

As UST rector, Father De la Rosa also serves as head of the hospital, but a management team takes care of day-to-day affairs.

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The committee, the rector said, would help him gather information and study the viability of plans for the country’s top university hospital.

“I ended my rectorship in 1998 and although I kept on teaching at the Ecclesiastical Faculties and has been a member of several boards in the hospital, I am no longer very much aware of what’s going on,” Father De la Rosa said.

Father Dingel told the Varsitarian: “The ad hoc committee for the review of the plans eventually forwarded to the office of the acting rector several recommendations. (And one of them) is the revision of the development plan which led to the creation of the ad hoc committee.”

Through the committee, the development plans for UST Hospital, involving construction and renovation, updating of organizational structures, and prioritization of projects and programs, among others, will be reviewed and revised. As of presstime, the committee is evaluating the construction of the fourth and fifth floors of the charity ward or Clinical Division of the hospital.

The real score

Responding to a statement from five UST doctors who want the dissolved corporation and ultimately, the resigned priests to shoulder whatever liabilities had been incurred in connection with the aborted hospital expansion, Dr. Mateo Bagsic, medical director of UST Hospital, wrote a letter to the Varsitarian clarifying the breakdown of the P 3-billion loan that was to finance the tower construction.

In a letter dated January 17, Bagsic branded the claims of Drs. Ronaldo Asuncion, Conrado Banzon, Corazon Lim, Artemio Ordinario, and Jesus Perez as a “distortion of the truth.”

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Bagsic said 93.3 percent of the loan, or P2.8 billion, was to be used “to fund the Development Project Costs of the Benavides Cancer Institute, the fourth and fifth floors of the Clinical Division Building, the Medical Arts Tower, the Diagnostic Center, and the renovation of the Pay Division Building.”

Contrary to the five doctors’ declaration in the letter Veritas vos liberabit (The truth shall set you free: Clinico-Pathological dissection of the UST Hospital, Inc.) that only P 1.2 billion will be used for the redevelopment while the bigger chunk of the remaining P 1.8 billion will be used to pay for interests, lawyers’ fees, commissions, and others — Bagsic’s letter said that only 0.7 percent or roughly P200 million will fund the syndicate manager’s fee, participation fee and gross receipts tax, documentary stamp tax, financial consultancy and financial-related liaison works, legal fees, and contingency fees.

“There are no commissions to be paid. There are no hidden costs,” Bagsic said.

Bagsic said the loan was the result of a “meticulous due diligence study by independent financial consultants and by the syndicate of lender banks—Development Bank of the Philippines, Land Bank, and Philtrust—who were unanimous in the assessment that there is very low risk of a failure to repay the loan.”

The five doctors had criticized the statements of Drs. Cenon Alfonso and William Olalia, former chief executive officer and chief operating officer of the defunct UST Hospital Inc., stressing that the hospital corporation should “pay its own debts” and should not expect UST to be a “golden parachute and safety net.”

Un-granted wishes

Father Arceo also sent to the Varsitarian a copy of a letter he had read before the Dominican community last year, airing his side on the hospital controversy.

“I would like to apologize to the community for taking the risk (like the other members of the hospital board) of deciding to sign the loan agreement with the banks hoping that the Master and his Council would understand and consequently, sanate the irregular process we had done for the welfare of the University and the hospital (Canonical irregularity is not necessarily a sin),” Father Arceo wrote.

The P3-billion loan, he said, was signed in April 2007 on the assumption that the Master will sanate or regularize the transactions as allowed by Canon Law and give a “post-factum approval.”

He pointed out that the hospital administration had to act fast considering rising construction costs

“I still maintain that apart from the canonical difficulties, the project of (the) multi-storey medical tower and the P3-billion loan was professionally done and validated by capable institutions — at least 3 banks — and unless a professional audit/evaluation is made proving otherwise, I shall continue to believe that it is feasible and realistic,” Father Arceo said.


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