Medical Referrals From Palau To Philippines Suspended

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Officials say only current referral patients will be covered for now

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, July 16, 2012) – Due to limited funding, the referral of patients from Palau to Manila (Philippines) through the Medical Referral Program (MRP) has been temporarily suspended.

Hasinta Idechong, Belau National Hospital’s finance officer overseeing the MRP, yesterday confirmed information reaching Island Times about one patient whose referral to the Philippines has been cancelled. The patient with a cataract was reportedly scheduled to leave this week.

Idechong said that the program has limited funding to work with within a quarter.

She said that the available funding for the program can only fund the 18 patients currently getting medical treatment in Manila.

As of yesterday, there are already over 40 patients in the program’s waitlist.

Idechong said that the program is giving priority to patients that need immediate action, such as those in critical conditions (cancer patients for instance).

Idechong disclosed that funding availability affects the process of sending patients off island.

For this fiscal year, she said that appropriation for the program declined to at least $300,000 from about $500,000 in previous years.

Following the establishment of National Health Insurance (NHI), more patients are reportedly applying for medical referral as they pay less and the rest of the bills will be covered by NHI.

Before the NHI was put into use, there are only about 50 patients availing the Medical Referral Program in a year. When NHI was implemented in April last year, the number of patients applying for medical referral has tripled.

Idechong explained that the program initially pays for the patients’ hospital bills in Manila. The NHI then reimburses the program. Referral sites include the Medical City, St. Lukes Medical Center, Asian Hospital and Medical Center and the University of Santo Tomas Hospital.

Billing for one patient reportedly costs up to $25,000 but the patient pays only the maximum of $4,000.

Idechong indicated that reduced appropriation for the Medical Referral Program and delayed payment by the NHI impels the program to send patients off island according to their condition.

Idechong said that the Ministry of Finance will wire transfer to the program today. But she was quick to add that the money will only be enough to fund the 18 patients currently in the Philippines.

Idechong appealed for the public to understand as program officials continue to resolve the issues this week.

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