38 doctors from The Medical City (TMC) have taken ads in at least 2 of the country’s leading news broadsheets, publishing their unified response to the order of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the operator of the health care institution to reinstate its board from 2013.
In their statement, the group said that the duly elected board chaired by Jose Xavier Gonzales in 2018 and 2019 is responsible for the improvement of the finances, equipment, and facilities of the hospital. They also wrote about how TMC experienced nepotism, poor cost management, and loss in profitability under the previous board headed by Dr. Alfredo Bengzon.
“The Real Story from the People Who Work Here”
Under the headline, the group wrote:
"In September 2018, for the first time ever, doctors and small shareholders were given a chance to vote a new Board to oversee The Medical City. The previous management, led by Dr. Alfredo Bengzon, had refused to hold the legally mandated shareholder elections in June 2018 that would have voted in new members to the Board.
That doctors and shareholders voted in a new board, chaired by Jose Xavier “Eckie” Gonzales, in 2018, and again in 2019, proved to be crucial to the turnaround of The Medical City. Under the old board and its management, TMC suffered from nepotism that resulted in a long-delayed, costly IT project that could not deliver on its commitments, a heavily, one-sided onerous contract in Clark, and an investment in Guam that suffered unexplained tremendous cost over-runs and could not be made profitable. Solving these issues proved to be particularly difficult as the individual responsible was appointed by Dr. Bengzon and had been given several concurrent senior management positions throughtout the hospital and its nework.
In 2019, the first full year we had a duly elected Board working closely with a revitalized management team, TMC had its best year ever. A team of experienced professionals implemented financial discipline that allowed the network to improve its equipment and facilities while managing costs better. Doctors and employees were allowed to speak freely, without fear of being castigated or censured, creating an environment of collegiality that had been missing for years. As a result, TMC received numerous local and international awards for excellence in healthcare leadership and management.
But now, at a time when we put our lives and the lives of our families at risk, every single hour, to provide care for you, our patients, we have been told that because of a questionable decision issued by the SEC, there is a chance that Dr. Bengzon may be given control of TC (despite having only 0.3% of TMC shares) and to become CEO again (despite a performance that led to TMC’s financial difficulties).
This is not the time to risk losing the institution’s growth momentum and talented professionals. Having now experienced professional management and rational decision making, none of us want to go back to a style of nepotistic and impulsive management that we had suffered from. We cannot allow that to happen to our institution again.
We thank Dr. Bengzon for his service to our hospital, and to the country as the Secretary of Health. But we believe that the best interests of our hospital, our patients, and our country rest on the continuity of the current duly elected management team."
The Securities and Exchange Commission Decision
On August 20, the SEC announced that Viva Holdings (Philippines) Pre. Ltd., Viva Healthcare Limited, Fountel Corporation and Felicitas Antoinette, Inc. (FAI) committed fraud in acquiring majority shares of Professional Services Inc. (PSI), the operating company of The Medical City.
The SEC release stated that the investment group led by Jose Xavier Gonzales and Singapore-based Viva Holdings kept secret their Cooperation and Shareholders Agreement (CSA), signed August 1, 2013, to acquire majority shareholdings in PSI. The group was penalized by the Commission for violating the tender offer rules, and all shares acquired were nullified starting August 1, 2013.
On August 24, the SEC released a decision for the board of directors of PSI to revert back to its members during the period before the said illegal transactions started. Officers of the registered board of directors with the SEC as of July 2013 include Augusto P. Sarmiento (chairman), Dr. Alfredo Bengzon (president and CEO), Jose Xavier Gonzales (treasurer).