MANILA — In a statement released on January 16, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) expressed optimism on the tie-up with the Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) for the management of the clinical services of the Philippines’ first overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) hospital in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

On Friday’s signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU), DOLE Sec. Silvestre Bello III said the expertise of the country’s top medical institution will “add quality to the service and prestige to the name of the facility meant to provide the health requirements of OFWs.”

“I’m glad that the state’s leading research and medical center is supporting the OFW Hospital. With PGH on our side, what could possibly go wrong?” Bello said.

“In serving the health needs of our modern-day heroes, we need the champion in saving lives. Thank you PGH for helping us,” he added.

PGH Director Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, former president and Pampanga congressional (Second District) candidate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Department of Health Undersec. Leopoldo Vega and other officials of the labor and health departments, PGH, Bloomberry and the provincial government of Pampanga also attended the MOU signing.

Under the MOU, the PGH will help in the training of clinical and administrative personnel, planning and acquisition of hospital equipment and formulation of clinical and fiscal process flow.

The medical institution will also help guide the OFW Hospital in the creation of electronic medical records and hospital information systems and planning of infrastructure layout about clinical services.

Aside from the PGH, the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), Bloomberry Cultural Foundation Incorporated (BCFI) and the Pampanga Provincial Government also helped in the construction of the 100-bed hospital set to be completed this March 2022.

Duterte orders fast-track of OFW hospital construction

In a report by ABS-CBN News, President Rodrigo Duterte signed last December 7 Executive Order 154 which will fast-track the construction of the OFW Hospital aimed at providing free hospitalization, medical certificates, laboratory exams, and other necessities for migrant workers.

The EO will allow the bidding of medical equipment for the hospital, with DOLE recently flagging legal issues which previously delayed the bidding.

Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles said the EO, which will “direct the establishment of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Hospital,” will also create an inter-agency committee focused on the establishment of the hospital chaired by the secretaries of Labor and Health.

The inter-agency committee will also have the Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management, chiefs of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, as well as two representatives of land- and sea-based OFWs as its members.

The funding for the hospital’s establishment and initial operation, on the other hand, will be charged to DOLE.

“We consider the establishment of this specialty hospital devoted to OFWs as a long overdue recognition of the valuable contribution of Filipino migrant workers to the economy and to the nation,” Nograles said in a statement.

Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, who chairs the chamber’s committee on health and demography, said the hospital will also cater to dependents of OFWs.

“In addition to providing medical care, it will also conduct research on the prevention, care and treatment of occupational diseases common among OFWs as well as train health workers on the implementation of OFW-specific occupational health services,” according to Go’s office.

“Through OWWA, a referral system will be created to ensure the efficient delivery of medical and healthcare services, including the conduct of pre-employment medical examinations of departing OFWs,” it added.

The statement also noted that the cost of the initial construction phase, which started last January 2021 with the supposed completion date of May 2021, amounting to PHP521.8 million was funded by the Bloomberry Cultural Foundation, Inc.

According to Government data, at least 800,000 OFWs have already returned home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.