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Directorship row ‘paralyzing’ UP-PGH

3 May 2010 No Comment

J. ABELLA and CARMELA LAPENA, GMANews.TV

 

02/02/2010 | 03:18 AM

Source: http://www.gmanews. tv/story/ 182966/directors hip-row-paralyzi ng-up-pgh

 

The directorship of the University of the Philippines’ Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), dubbed as the country’s biggest charity hospital, is a veritable tempest brewing between the institution’s contending powers.

Even with the assumption of Dr. Jose Gonzales to the hospital’s top post, “some very powerful people are intent on preventing [his] installation as PGH director,” said UP Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo.

Taguiwalo is part of the 11-member UP Board of Regents (BOR), the university’s highest policy-making body that is now under fire as some of its members are allegedly “moving heaven and earth” to have Gonzales replaced by their own choice.

The controversy has prompted four regents, including Taguiwalo, to walk out of the BOR meeting last Jan. 29 in protest of what they perceived as attempts by the other regents to overturn an earlier decision naming Gonzales as the new PGH director.

The meeting, which was supposed to iron out the issue, was prematurely halted due to lack of quorum, leaving the PGH and its performance of its duties in a state of uncertainty.

Majority vote for Gonzales

In a meeting last Dec. 18, the BOR, voting 6-5, elected Gonzales to replace two-termer Dr. Carmelo Alfiler as the hospital’s director. Voting for him were Taguiwalo, Student Regent Charisse Bañez, Staff Regent Clodualdo Cabrera, Alumni Regent Alfredo Pascual, and Senator Manuel Roxas II, a member of BOR being the chair of the Senate committee on education, arts, and culture.

Those who voted for Alfiler, meanwhile, were UP President Emerlinda Roman; Malacañang-appointed Regents Abraham Sarmiento, Nelia Gonzales, and Francis Chua; and Rep. Cynthia Villar, chair of the House committee on higher education and wife of presidential aspirant Sen. Manuel Villar Jr.

BOR chair Emmanuel Angeles, also the chairman of Commission on Higher Education (CHED), broke the tie by voting for Gonzales.

Gonzales was supposed to have been sworn into office on Jan. 4, but Roman postponed the oath-taking for Jan. 5, Taguiwalo said in a blog post narrating the circumstances surrounding the Jan. 29 walk-out.

On Jan. 5, however, Roman issued a resolution appointing UP Manila Chancellor Ramon Arcadio as the officer-in-charge of the PGH, reportedly in light of a regent’s protest against Gonzales’ appointment.

Roman was referring to the protest of Sarmiento, also a former Supreme Court justice, asking the BOR not to consider Bañez’s vote in light of the previous claim that she was no longer a UP student and therefore not qualified to serve as the students’ representative in the BOR.

The BOR, however, resolved also on Dec. 18 to allow Bañez to vote pending resolution of questions on her status.

Gonzales was later allowed to take his oath on Jan. 7 following protests from PGH personnel, medical students and staff.

“We are suspicious na talagang hindi ako ang gusto nilang maging director. Ano ba ang gusto ng BOR? (We suspect that they really do not want me to become director. What does the BOR want?) I thought everything was alright after the oath-taking. I’d been functioning as director since then,” Gonzales said.

GMANews.TV tried to contact Alfiler, but was informed he is on vacation.

‘Highly irregular’

“[We] found it highly irregular that the question on the status of the Student Regent during the Dec. 18 meeting, which had already been decided, was being revisited for the purpose of nullifying the election of Dr. Gonzales as PGH Director,” Taguiwalo said in the blog post, adding that Sarmiento participated in the voting both on the status of Bañez and for the selection of the PGH director without objections.

Taguiwalo added that another regent’s move to subject Sarmiento’s motion to a vote prompted her and the other regents to walk out of the meeting on Jan. 29.

“I decided that I could countenance being part of a process… which could be considered illegal,” she further wrote.

She added that while they are open to discussing Bañez’s status as the student regent, such should not be used to overturn an earlier decision which apparently does not please the “powers that be.”

“Our university faces a range of burning issues which we as Regents must deliberate and decide on. But we must do so with the highest respect for due process and respect for decisions, especially on appointments, arrived at by the Board even in the rare case that the decision goes against the wishes of the highest executive official within or outside UP,” Taguiwalo said.

As this developed, in a statement posted on its Web site also on Jan. 29, the UP administration declared Bañez not a bona fide student as she was neither on residency status nor on leave of absence, and is thus not qualified to sit as the Student Regent.

Bañez could not be reached for comment as of posting time.

State of uncertainty

Even with designated chairpersons in each of its 19 clinical departments, the PGH remains in a state of uncertainty as planning for the next three years, the length of the director’s term, becomes a difficult task in light of its director’s status.

“Hindi sila sigurado kung mareretain sila for the next three years. Andun palagi sa likod ng isipan na baka baguhin ang mga plano,” said Jossel Ebesate of the All UP Workers Union-UP Manila.

(They are not sure if they will be retained for the next three years. At the back of their minds, they think that their plans might have to be changed.)

Gonzales also told GMANews.TV that there is now an uneasy climate in the hospital. “Enough of this. The PGH community is already confused. We need to move on. It really derails our mentality that we are thinking of this [controversy] while we are working” he said.

He added that because of controversy, it is difficult for the hospital to operate, affecting not only the hospital staff, but its patients.

“They are sacrificing the patients,” Gonzales said.

A UP College of Medicine student, who refused to be named, also told GMANews.TV that PGH is now “functionally paralyzed” as the departments only have acting chairs. “You can’t hire anyone new. You can’t start any new programs, because your chair isn’t official. Parang caretaker lang ‘yung status ng mga admin, (It’s as if the administrative heads only act as caretakers), ” said the student.

It remains unclear whether Sarmiento’s protest and the status of Bañez will be part of the next BOR meeting’s agenda scheduled at the end of the month. For sure, however, the saga leaves in limbo not only the PGH’s administration, but also the delivery of its promised services to “the poor and the marginalized. ” – KBK?GMANews. TV

 

 

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