PH Red Cross to resume COVID-19 testing after PhilHealth pays half of P1.1-B debt

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 27 2020 10:20 PM | Updated as of Oct 28 2020 12:36 AM

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) on Tuesday said it would resume its COVID-19 testing services, hours after the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) settled about half of its P1.1-billion debt to the humanitarian organization.

PRC COVID-19 testing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport would resume Tuesday night, while other PRC testing laboratories would reopen on October 28, Gordon told reporters in an online press conference.

"We embarrassed our entire country. Hindi naman kami sugapa. Sundin niyo lang 'yung contract," he said, referring to an agreement that PhilHealth would shoulder the cost of COVID-19 testing for frontliners.

(We embarrassed our entire country. We are not greedy. Just abide by the contract.)

"Ang tao ang iniisip namin eh (We are thinking about the people)... to help save lives," he said.

The PRC will halt its COVID-19 testing program again should PhilHealth fail to pay for the new tests strictly 3 days after each swab is conducted, Gordon said.

"I will not risk the organization again," he said.

"Hindi na ako papayag na lalaki na naman ang utang."

(I will not allow that debt to balloon again.)

PhilHealth sent a P500-million check to the PRC "after office hours", nearly 2 weeks after the Philippines' largest COVID-19 testing organization suspended its services.

Gordon said he is willing to "renegotiate" with PhilHealth after the state insurer settles its remaining P600-million debt with the PRC.

"Kung gusto nilang P100 million ibalik ulit, fine. I'm agreeable to that. Kung 'yun ang gusto nila mas maganda... Mas madali habulin," he said.

(If they want to go back to the P100 million, fine. I'm agreeable to that. If that's what they want, that's better... It's easier to collect.)

Under the scheme, PhilHealth would have to pay the PRC P100 million in advance and "replenish" the "revolving fund" once it drops to P30 million, Gordon said.

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PhilHealth has yet to say when it plans to pay its P600-million balance with the PRC.

The Red Cross is willing to give PhilHealth a list of those who availed of the agency's free COVID-19 testing services, Gordon said.

"Lahat ng tinest namin may sulat 'yan... May bar code 'yan na kasama nung test so that can all be accounted for," he said.

(All the tests we've done have endorsement letters... The tests also have bar codes so that can all be accounted for.)

"Hindi kami gagawa ng kalokohan (We will not commit anomalies). Our name is too precious in the world."

As of October 27, the PRC has catered to around 26 percent or 1.15 million of the total coronavirus screenings done in the country.

PhilHealth's failure to settle its debt led to a delay in the shipment of COVID-19 testing kits from China, Gordon said.

Some 450,000 swabbing units were supposed to be flown to the country Tuesday, but the delivery had to be moved to Thursday due to PRC's debt row with PhilHealth, according to the senator.

"We thank you (PhilHealth) for your payment but we need you to pay the full amount," he said.

Gordon meanwhile urged PhilHealth CEO Dante Gierran to investigate the state health insurer's other concerns, particularly corruption allegations. --With a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

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