DOH seeking help of 8 private labs for COVID-19 tests, says Palace
The Department of Health is tapping eight private laboratories to conduct the coronavirus disease testing while there is no resolution yet on the problem between the Philippine Red Cross and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Malacanang said on Monday.
In a televised press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the eight private labs have the capacity equivalent to Red Cross.
"The DOH is in consultation with eight private labs with equivalent capacity to the testing being done by Philippine Red Cross and they were all assured by PhilHealth," he said.
Red Cross has stopped its services to PhilHealth covered individuals, such as the returning overseas Filipino workers and some healthcare workers, after the state health insurer failed to pay its debt which ballooned to P930 million.
Roque said PhilHealth is ready to pay at least half of the debt, however, Red Cross is demanding full payment.
"In fairness to PhilHealth and this was in fact relayed to me by no less than Executive Secretary (Salvador) Medialdea, we're willing to pay 50 percent right now. (But) from my understanding, PNRC did not agree until it is full payment. If they accept 50 percent right now, they will be paid 50 percent, but, of course, they have to resume testing," he said.
In the same briefing, Roque said that based on the opinion rendered by the Department of Justice addressed to PhilHealth president and CEO Dante Gierran, there is no legal impediment if PhilHealth agrees with Red Cross to provide delivery of health services, like the COVID-19 testing since it is covered by Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universial Health Care Law.
He said the DOJ also opined that PhilHealth could make advance payment to Red Cross as what it did before when it gave the latter advance cash payment of P100 million, provided there was an approval by President Rodrigo Duterte.
"It is not clear from the documents submitted to us whether such authority (from the President) had been obtained. Nonetheless, even if the PHIC failed to get such approval prior to remitting the amount to the PRC, we are of the opinion that such must still be obtained post facto," Roque said, quoting the DOJ opinion.
The Justice department, however, failed to give its opinion on whether PhilHealth is legally obligated to immediately pay the Red Cross' billings.
"We regret that we cannot give an opinion on the matter, since there are no facts given on which we can based our opinion particularly on the completeness of the requirements and compliance with accounting and auditing rules and procedures," Roque, further quoting the DOJ. Celerina Monte/DMS