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DOH asked to keep close watch on erring ophthalmologists.

The Senate blue ribbon committee yesterday urged the Department of Health (DOH) to exercise its authority in regulating erring eye clinics that commit unethical procedures in carrying out cataract surgeries on their patients.

This development unfolded after two senior citizens surfaced at the second hearing of the panel chaired by Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III, on the suspicious P2-billion worth of insurance reimbursements of some private health facilities with PhilHealth, to testify how they ended up losing their eyesight after undergoing laser and cataract operation with two eye clinics that is now under investigation by the state health insurance agency.

"I understand that the Philippine Association of Ophthalmologists have already filed a complaint with the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) but the PRC is saying they don't have sufficient capability to do that so what can we do to ensure they have the clout to carry this out?"

"Yet it is the DOH that has the power to give licenses to these facilities. So I think we need to strengthen the DOH. Because even though they have the power to issue licenses, they're having problems with monitoring these erring medical facilities," Guingona said in an interview with reporters after the hearing.


Meantime, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto asked yesterday the Commission on Audit (COA) to review some of the claims for reimbursements from PhilHealth filed by hospitals and private clinics on medical care extended to patients.

Recto urged Alexander Padilla, PhilHealth Chief Executive Officer and President, to conduct an internal investigation on the alleged scam involving excessive payments on ghost or questionable treatments.

"We followed the money and all the money went to private health care institutions," Padilla told Recto and Guingona.

Padilla said that most of the erring parties were private health care providers.

Recto said PhilHealth should likewise divulge government hospitals which tried to pull a fast one on the state health insurer.


Eye surgery patient Romeo Fernando told Senate probers that his right eye got damaged after undergoing laser surgery. It was later discovered the iris on his eye was damaged and ultimately caused his right eye to go blind.

Bonifacio Martinez, on the other hand, lost his eyesight after a cataract operation due to fungal infection. Martinez also claimed he was asked to sign a waiver and was given R10,000 cash by the health center that operated on him.

Afterwards, he said, he lost contact with the physicians.

Representatives from the Pacific Eye Institute (PEI), Quezon City Eye Center (QCEC) and Borough Medical Care Institute were present during the hearing. PhilHealth has already suspended PhilHealth reimbursements of PEI and QCEC while Borough is still under investigation.

"It's very important that the DOH use its power and their responsibility to police these eye centers. They've been saying they don't have the capacity to do so but it's the life of Filipinos are the ones at stake here," Guingona said.


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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Jul 8, 2015
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