Culprits behind substandard Ifugao hospital denounced

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LAGAWE, Ifugao  – Concerned residents of the province challenged health authorities and provincial officials to prosecute individuals responsible for the alleged substandard implementation of the first phase of the construction of a 2-storey building of the Ifugao General Hospital that resulted to the waste of public funds instead of having served in providing quality health services to the people of the province.

Sources, who requested anonymity for security reasons, underscored several years have passed since the discovery of the alleged substandard construction but nothing concrete has been done against those responsible officials and other people behind the questionable project to teach them a lesson that public infrastructure should be done for the benefit of the people and not to compromise their safety.

The sources claim instead of providing additional funds to retrofit the alleged substandard building, health authorities and provincial officials should instead file the appropriate charges against those responsible for the substandard project and dig to the bottom of the issue.

In 2014, the Ifugao General Hospital (IGH), was ordered closed by former Secretary Enrique T. Ona because a study conducted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau revealed that the location of the hospital is prone to landslides.

The construction of the new IGH has been proposed as early as 2008 after a thorough evaluation of the structural integrity of the 20-year-old hospital. Thus, the Provincial Local Government decided to relocate the hospital to Lumingay, Lagawe.

Programmed to be a complex structure that would have a main building, administrative building and morgue, among others, the new IGH aimed to provide tertiary operations, such as brain surgery and other major operations, for the citizens of Ifugao and nearby provinces.

Under the Hospital Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of DOH, the estimated budget for the completion of the new IGH is PHP328 million, which was scheduled to come in tranches.

The three-phased project was approved for implementation in 2010.

The funds that had been allocated for the project included P50 million in 2012, P100 million in 2013, P25 million in 2014, P68 million in 2015, and the 2016-2017 budget is P68 million from 2015 savings and P99.8 million for the 2018 budget.

During Phase I of the new IGH project, the amount of PHP 50 million from the 2012 budget was downloaded to the provincial government and was bidded on a design-build basis to a sole bidder, Phranaret Construction. The implementation proceeded during the incumbency of Governor Eugene M. Balitang in 2013.

In 2013, the DOH Center for Health Development–Cordillera Administrative Region intervened and had the PHP 100 million from the 2013 budget bidded through national competitive bidding at the DOH regional office. The contract for Phase II was then awarded to the lowest bidder, Grandby Trading and Construction, Inc.

Following an alleged report of vibrations in the structure, the DOH Regional Director commissioned a test by BIP Steadfast with the participation of Engr. Jonathan Pahigon for the province. In its report, BIP Steadfast noted some failures in the installation of the slabs and columns, which was part of Phase I.

DOH sought the services of Engr. Buhangin, who recommended that the failed slabs and columns be retrofitted, which would cost about PHP 7 million – an amount to be shouldered by the province.

In August 2 of the same year, Poblacion North Barangay Captain Jonas Kinakin reported that the concrete gutter mounted by Grandby Trading and Construction, Inc. had collapsed. This led the anxious public to call for action from provincial government officials. In response, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan called for the temporary suspension of the construction to give way for an investigation.

In addition, a report from the Office of the Provincial Engineer also disclosed that assorted lumber scraps, cement bag paper and boulders were used as part of the concrete filler in one of the cement pouring sections. This is one of the documented violations of Grandby Trading and Construction, Inc. in its construction operations from March 5 to October 8, 2013.

Just as much excitement this new hospital project brought the Ifugao constituents, recent developments in the project also brought them dismay. Through the assistance of the Ifugao Cyberspace Watchdog, the citizens of Ifugao made an online petition through to suspend the construction of the new Ifugao General Hospital pending investigation on the integrity of the structure and its implementation.

As end-users of the project, the citizens expressed their indignation against the malpractices and defective work of the contractor, Grandby Trading and Construction, Inc., and the alleged indifference and neglect of the provincial government and the Cordillera office of the  DOH-CAR to take appropriate actions.

However, the sources claimed that the contractor of the project’s second phase should not be the one singled out in the fiasco but the investigation should go as far as the first phase of the project to be able to come out with a true picture on who was responsible for causing the controversy.

To date, the construction has yet to resume pending the investigation of the Commission on Audit (COA) and DOH.

The sources claimed should people of Ifugao be clarified about the issue, concrete actions must be taken against those responsible for the questionable project instead covering up for the malpractice just to save the faces of some involved politicians and probably some local contractors.