By William Casis

With a whooping PHP1-billion debt Philhealth owes to the Philippine Red Cross, Chairman and CEO Sen. Richard Gordon warned the PRC would  suspend their COVID-19 testing if the state health insurer does not pay.

Gordon, who has been at the forefront of the PRC’s response to COVID-19 pandemic, said the  Red Cross will discontinue to test those whose payments will be charged to PhilHealth until it settles its balances. PRC has a testing capacity of 40,000 a day nationwide.

He stressed PhilHealth’s non-payment of PHP700.5 million will prevent the Red Cross from ordering test kits to replenish its dwindling supply, forcing the agency to stop operations in its testing center in Manila.

Moreover, he said the Red  Cross will not be able to open its newly-built laboratories in Bacolod, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro City.

“How can we operate if we do not have enough test kits and we do not have money to pay our med techs and other staff? We have been totally cooperative in all aspects but we cannot afford to continue if the government, particularly PhilHealth, continues to fail in their lawful obligations,” he added

“The debt of PhilHealth to Red Cross is almost PHP1 billion. After they gave PHP100 million, they have been paying in little amounts,” related Gordon.

He said that won’t work because they also need funds to buy testing materials and pay salaries. If they won’t pay, we will stop testing,” said Gordon.

According to Gordon, he already reached out to concerned government officials. He has been continuously calling the PhilHealth’s attention to immediately act on the matter.

“These delays and foot dragging by PhilHealth have been going on from day one of the contract. We sincerely hope for our people’s sake that the government will see its way clear in resolving this unwanted crisis immediately,” he said.

But the Senator clarified the Red Cross will still accommodate walk-in individuals who would want to get tested and who will pay for their swab tests.

PhilHealth said it has paid a total of PHP504.2 million to the PRC as of August 12, representing 115,500 RT-PCR tests conducted by the agency.

The payments covered more than half of the PHP910 million limit set by its Board of Directors in May.

The payables amounting to PHP714.6 million being referred to by Gordon were covered by three separate billing statements which PhilHealth received on August 13, 14 and 15. 

“These will be processed in accordance with the imposed limit subject to additional allocation as may be approved by the Board,” assured Philhealth.