House Bill 9194, which shall establish the Overseas Filipino Workers Hospital, was approved with 180 affirmative votes and zero negatives votes.
The proposed OFW Hospital Act is principally authored by former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in response to President Rodrigo Duterte's call for pro-worker bills during the celebration of this year's Labor Day.
Arroyo earlier said the establishment of a national hospital facility with departmentalized clinical services and select specialty care for OFWs and their families will address the growing list of physical and mental health problems suffered by OFWs due to risks associated with the nature of their employment.
HB 9194 provides for the establishment of the OFW Hospital with at least tertiary level of care.
The hospital shall be under the full administrative and technical supervision of the Department of Health (DOH).
To ensure the availability, accessibility and affordability of quality health care, the OFW Hospital shall, among others: provide comprehensive and total health care services to all migrant workers, including Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) contributors whether active or non-active, and their legal dependents; conduct medical examinations to ensure the physical and mental capability of would-be overseas contract workers duly covered by an approved job order; serve as primary referral hospital for repatriated OFWs needing medical assistance and support; set up systems that will effectively monitor the condition of patients and to generate relevant health information and data for policy formulation; and participate in the health care provider networks and arrangements relative to the implementation of RA 11223, or the Universal Health Care Act.
The bill mandates that the Secretary of Labor and Employment, as chairperson of the OWWA Board, shall ensure that existing health benefits and medical assistance programs are strengthened to include, among others, subsidies on hospitalization and medical procedures for OFWs and their qualified dependents.
It also provides for the creation of a Joint Executive Oversight Committee on OFW Hospital to review and recommend hospital development plans and ensure implementation of the Act.
The committee shall be co-chaired by the Secretary of Health and the Secretary of Labor and Employment. It shall have seven members, including the co-chairs. Its members shall be appointed by the Secretary of Health upon consultation with the Secretary of Labor and Employment.
All grants, bequests, endowments, donations and contributions made to the OFW Hospital to be used actually, directly and exclusively by the OFW Hospital shall be exempt from donor’s tax and the same shall be considered as allowable deduction from the gross income of the donor, in accordance with the provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended.
The importation of equipment, machinery and spare parts which are used solely and exclusively for the operation of the OFW Hospital and are not available locally shall be exempt from value-added tax and customs duty.
The Secretary of Health shall include in the DOH’s program the implementation of the Act, the funding of which shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.
The OWWA shall also include in their benefits and medical assistance programs for OFWs the line item budget necessary to improve the access of OFWs and their dependents to healthcare services.
Within 60 days from the approval of the Act, the DOH, in coordination with DOLE, OWWA, POEA and other stakeholders, shall promulgate the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to carry out the provisions of the Act.
ACTS-OFW Party-list Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III hailed the approval of the measure as a victory for all OFWs needing health care services.
Besides being the primary health care provider for repatriated OFWs and other distressed migrant workers, he said the OFW hospital will also be beneficial for pre-employment medical examinations, possibly cutting the cost of hospital expenses for OFWs before they depart to work abroad.
“This program has been on top of our priority list at the start of our term. We have long sought for the creation of an OFW hospital and we are one step closer to providing our modern-day heroes a medical facility specifically for their needs,” he said.
“We are very grateful to our colleagues for acknowledging the important policies when it comes to our modern-day heroes, and also to President Rodrigo Duterte for being on our side for the protection of all our OFWs,” Bertiz said.