A nun joins the women's advocacy group GABRIELA and victims of Typhoon Haiyan, during a International Women's Day protest rally outside the residence of President Benigno Aquino in Quezon city, metro Manila March 8, 2014. The protesters are denouncing what they say is the government's neglect of disaster victims in central Philippines. On March 8 activists around the globe celebrate International Women's Day, which dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century and has been observed by the United Nations since 1975. The UN writes that it is an occasion to commemorate achievements in women's rights and to call for further change.  (MNS photo)

A nun joins the women’s advocacy group GABRIELA and victims of Typhoon Haiyan, during a International Women’s Day protest rally outside the residence of President Benigno Aquino in Quezon city, metro Manila March 8, 2014. The protesters are denouncing what they say is the government’s neglect of disaster victims in central Philippines. On March 8 activists around the globe celebrate International Women’s Day, which dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century and has been observed by the United Nations since 1975. The UN writes that it is an occasion to commemorate achievements in women’s rights and to call for further change. (MNS photo)

MANILA, Jan 28 (Mabuhay) — Is Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, which serves at least 100 pregnant mothers every day, being privatized to allow for the development of a medical tourism market that caters to foreigners seeking beauty enhancement treatments? This is what Gabriel Women’s Party Rep. Emmi de Jesus wants probed.

In a statement e-mailed to media outfits, de Jesus said this shows the distorted government priority and discrimination against providing mother-and-child health services among the poor. She said the plan to privatize Fabella will further marginalize the poor and prevent them from accessing affordable health care.

The women’s party also demanded a halt in the privatization of Fabella and other public hospitals.

According to the labor union Alliance of Health Workers, six bidders participated in the June 2013 public bidding for the building of the new Fabella. The former city jail compound which the hospital is leasing will be rebuilt as a commercial property of the Light Railway Transit.

The new building at the DOH compound is intended only for 400 patients, almost half of the 700 beds in the current location.

Reports said the reduced bed count for Fabella would allow for the setting up of beauty treatment centers.

“It is the constitutional responsibility of government to improve, develop, and modernize public hospitals and public health services but doing this should be in the service of the people, not for the interests of profit-oriented investors and rich clients,” De Jesus said.

She also said that the Public Private Partnerships should not be used as framework for developing state-owned health facilities because the welfare of the majority of poor Filipinos will be made the last priority, while high profit rates are guaranteed in the contract with the private firms that take over the hospitals.

The cuts in beds, De Jesus added, will ensure further hikes in the maternal mortality rate that made the Philippines fail the Millennium Development Goal to reduce risks of pregnancies and births.

“Even now, as the government is already banning home births and passing city ordinances penalizing midwives who provide cheap birthing services, almost every week we hear of women giving birth in taxis and trains. With this privatization of the Fabella, we are sure that poor mothers will experience further hardships in seeking inexpensive natal care for their families. Expect more babies to be born in pedicabs and convenience stores,” she said.(MNS)