DOH employee files complaint vs. higher-ups over cancer funds

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 12) — A Department of Health (DOH) employee has filed a complaint against senior officials before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly mismanaging the agency’s cancer funds.

A certain Dr. Clarito Cairo Jr. claimed the Cancer and Supportive-Palliative Medicines Access Program (CSPMAP) funds were sub-allotted to only 19 of the expected 31 access sites or hospitals, which was “highly disadvantageous to the government and a grave disservice to many CSPMAP-enrolled patients.”

The complaint, signed on Dec. 23, 2022, were on the grounds of grave misconduct, malversation of public funds, and violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”

Medical officer Cairo argued that DOH officer-in-charge undersecretary Beverly Ho, former director Anna Melissa Guerrero, directors Razel Nikka Hao and Anthony Cu, and doctors Kim Patrick Tejano and Jan Aura Laurelle Llevado conspired to disregard his expertise over the procurement of cancer medicines and “institutional memory.”

He said this resulted in the mismanagement of the CSPMAP budget of ₱786 million as well as the Cancer Assistance Fund (CAF) budget of ₱529 million, both sourced from the 2022 General Appropriations Act, “putting the lives of many cancer patients (especially those enrolled in CSPMAP since 2021) in jeopardy.”

Cairo mentioned that Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center, a go-to access site for cancer patients in 2021, had an insufficient budget of P16 million last year.

He added that the Philippine General Hospital, Rizal Medical Center, and Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center — hospitals that have been serving many cancer patients since 2011 — had been excluded from the list of access sites.

Further, the medical specialist said the 19 access sites did not procure Imatinib, an oral chemotherapy maintenance medication for at least 300 enrolled patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia, due to the sub-allotment of program funds.

The complainant also claimed that the respondents favored Trastuzumab (Herceptin) 600mg SC, which is still under the patent rights of Roche Philippines Inc., instead of the cheaper Trastuzumab 150mg IV which more breast cancer patients could benefit from.

“I execute this complaint-affidavit to attest to the truth of the foregoing and in support of my plea that, after due proceedings, this Honorable Office file Information for Grave Misconduct, Malversation of Public Funds, and Violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 against the herein Respondents; and impose preventive suspension and such other appropriate administrative sanctions on the Respondents presently holding office,” the complainant said.

In a statement, the Health department said it has yet to receive official copies of the complaint but assured it “acted in the best interest” of cancer patients and its officials are “confident that our integrities remain intact.”

“All the processes undertaken by the DOH, through the cancer program, were unanimously approved by the National Integrated Cancer Control Council — the highest and only designated policy-making, planning, and coordinating body consisting of key representatives and experts from different national government agencies, cancer specialists, and patient support groups,” it added.

The DOH also stated that the amounts sub-allotted were based on the documented requests of the hospitals, while the alleged excluded hospitals were provided with cancer medicines and cancer assistance funds.