IT’S FINAL. Despite much opposition from doctors of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery (Medicine), the University of Santo Tomas Hospital (USTH) is now officially a separate entity from the University.

A letter from the UST Board of Trustees (BOT) last Sept. 30 confirmed the status of the USTH as a separate corporation where “service should be made the priority and training be made secondary.”

Fr. Juan Ponce, O.P., vice-chairman of the UST-BOT, explained that the USTH has been an independent corporation since 1987, but it was only recently that the actual separation was being implemented partly due to the debt-ridden condition of the Hospital.

“The Faculty is a factor in the Hospital’s financial condition,” Fr. Ponce said. “Apparently, the old system doesn’t work (for the hospital’s financial status), so we have to try something else.”

It was earlier reported that the USTH incurred a P62-million debt as of May this year due to high costs—especially in the Hospital’s charity ward.

According to USTH medical director Dr. Rolando Cabatu, the Hospital is losing money partly because there are over 400 charity beds in USTH, 42 more than the “pay” beds. As a countermeasure, the USTH hopes to expand its “pay” operations. He added that the separation will allow the Hospital to hire more doctors.

But Dr. Mateo Bagsic, USTH chief administrative officer, clarified that the separation is only in the “administrative level” or the formation of a separate BOT for the hospital to restructure bureaucracy.

“Dalawang members na ngayon ng USTH administration ang nasa board, which means (it would be easier for us to act on our own),” Bagsic said. “Kasi kung under pa rin kami (sa UST) we cannot act on our own.”

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Fr. Moraleda's sunset

Rector Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P., is the USTH-BOT chair, while Vice-Rector Fr. Juan Ponce, O.P., is vice-chairman. The board would also probably be composed of six other Dominican priests and three laymen, according to Cabatu.

Irreplaceable

Saying USTH is an “irreplaceable component” in delivering quality medical education, 220 doctors from Medicine earlier signed an appeal to the UST-BOT.

“Much has been said about separating teaching from service, implying that the role of the hospital is service, while that of the Faculty is teaching—this is untrue and unrealistic,” the paper stated. “Service and education must stand on equal footing to produce graduates who are not only competent but compassionate.”

According to Medicine Dean Dr. Rolando Lopez, the Hospital administration did not specify how the separation would benefit both institutions and that it might even diminish the prestige of the University as a premiere medical school. The supposed separation might compromise the role of USTH as an educational hospital and turn it into a purely service-oriented hospital, he said.

But Bagsic assured otherwise.

“Education-wise, nandyan pa rin (ang ospital), and it would always complement (the Faculty),” he said.

On the other hand, Medicine Regent Fr. Jerry Manlangit, O.P., said USTH might eventually become a profit-oriented hospital because it might soon depend on private institutions to alleviate its financial condition.

“If you are a businessman who put much money (in a hospital), you will have to operate that hospital according to your wishes so that you can recover your investments,” Fr. Manlangit said. “If that happens, the University will not have control of the hospital.”

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Fr. Ponce admitted that the Dominican community was divided on the issues, but it decided the matter in a “democratic way.” He added that the supposed separation would not affect the tax-exempt status of the “University hospital” because USTH’s charity ward could still justify its tax-exempt status.

Meanwhile, some medical students expressed fear that medical clerks would have a difficult time looking for other hospitals for clerkship. They added the separation might result in higher tuition.

“Baka wala nang mapuntahan ‘yung mga clerks natin next year. Kaya nga ako pumunta sa UST—para sa quality of training,” said Dindo dela Cruz, a fourth-year Medicine student.As of press time, the Medicine Faculty Association (MFA) and Medical Staff Association were set to make another appeal to the UST-BOT, according to Dr. Rebecca de Castro, MFA president.

Meanwhile, a committee composed of members from the faculty and the hospital administration was formed to discuss the gray areas of the separation, quickly quelling brewing tensions among some doctors who were allegedly “left in the dark” about the issue. Reagan D. Tan

1 COMMENT

  1. my neurologist here in La Union suspected that i have CTS. whom can i approach when i’ll be there? also, i want to know how much may be spent? thank you very much…

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