Senator Sonny Angara said today that he will push for the passage of a law that would provide Filipinos with easier access to specialized medical care, particularly those who are situated in remote areas.
Angara has filed Senate Bill 93 as one of his priority legislation for the 19th Congress, which seeks to establish satellite specialty hospitals in provinces that are geographically isolated from their regions’ tertiary care hospital.
These specialty hospitals namely the Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center are all operated by the Department of Health and are all situated in the National Capital Region.
“Sa aking pagiikot sa mga tinatawag natin na specialty hospitals ay napansin ko na marami sa mga pasyente doon ay nanggaling pa mga malalayong lugar tulad ng Maguindanao at General Santos City. Napakalaking gastos ito para sa mga pasyente at sa kanilang mga kamag-anak na kailangan bumiyahe ng malayo para magpagamot,” Angara said.
“Marami pa tayong mga probinsya na talaga naman na underserved pagdating sa health services. Ito ang mga lugar na isolated sa kanilang mga regional tertiary care hospitals. Dahil dito ang panukala natin ay makapagpatayo ng specialty hospitals sa mga nakatayo nang mga ospital sa mga probinsyang ito,” he added.
Angara filed the same bill in the 18th Congress and now with the backing of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., he is optimistic the measure will have a better chance of being enacted into law.
In his SONA, the President said medical services must be brought to the people and not the other way around.
“Napakinabangan natin nang husto ang malalaking specialty hospitals gaya ng Heart Center, Lung Center, Children’s Hospital at National Kidney and Transplant Institute. Kaya maliwanag na hindi lang dapat dito sa National Capital Region, kundi maging sa ibang parte ng bansa kailangan madagdag ng ganitong uri ng mga pagamutan,” the President said.
Under Angara’s bill, the four specialty hospitals will be required to establish satellite hospitals in identified regions to be managed and operated pursuant to their respective charters.
Prioritization in the selection of locations for the satellite specialty hospitals will be based on the top burden of disease in the region; the legal mandates of laws such as the Integrated Cancer Control Act, Mental Health Act, and the Expanded Senior Citizens Act; and provinces that are geographically isolated from the region’s tertiary care hospital.
Alongside the efforts to put up satellite specialty hospitals, Angara said there is a need to produce more medical personnel, particularly specialists, to serve in these facilities.
One way to address this, Angara said, is through Republic Act 11509 or the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act wherein the state-supported medical scholars will undergo a mandatory return of service at public health institutions, including the specialty hospitals.
As one of the co-authors of the law, Angara said the Doktor Para sa Bayan will serve as a long-term solution to the manpower issues of the country’s public health facilities.
Another initiative of Angara that could also help in addressing this issue is the proposed establishment of hospitals in state universities and colleges (SUC) that offer medical degrees.
Filed as Senate Bill 92 under the present Congress, the proposed Health Facility Augmentation Act will not only increase the hospital bed capacity, but will also provide medical students with the training they require within the SUCs where they are enrolled.
“We would like to see more SUCs offering medical degrees so that more Filipinos who want to pursue a career in medicine would have a greater opportunity to do so wherever they are situated,” Angara said.