JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA (The Manila Times)
THE Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) move to provide free tuition for medical students in select state universities and colleges (SUCs) is a good start but it should also convince Congress to act and pass a law that would ensure the continuity of the program, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said on Sunday.
Angara expressed hope that with the initiative of CHED, lawmakers would now find it necessary to make the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1157 a priority.
The bill seeks to establish a medical scholarship program in the country.
It also intends to finance the medical schooling of a beneficiary who, after completing his studies and passing the medical board examinations, will serve as a doctor in the public hospital in his home province.
Angara, author of SB 1157, said the proposal is also aimed at addressing the continuing need for doctors in provincial public hospitals to perform the required medical services to those who cannot afford to avail of the services of private hospitals.
Under the bill, the medical scholarship program will not only include free tuition but also allowance for prescribed books, supplies and equipment, clothing and uniform, housing accommodation, transportation and other related miscellaneous living allowances.
The proposed scholarship program shall accept at least one beneficiary from every province in the country.
The number of beneficiaries per province shall depend on the number of medical doctors needed for each province as determined by the Department of Health (DoH).
Angara’s bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Demography then headed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros last September 2016 but not a single hearing was conducted by the panel chairman.
The committee on health is now led by Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito after Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao moved to replace Hontiveros last February along with other Liberal Party senators holding other committee chairmanships.
“The lack or the maldistribution of doctors and healthcare professionals in the country is truly alarming. Most doctors and medical specialists are concentrated in urban centers and larger municipalities, leaving far-flung communities largely unserved,” Angara noted.
Based on DoH data, there is one doctor for every 33,000 Filipinos, far from the World Health Organization standard of one doctor for every 20,000 population.
Recent data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that three out of five Filipinos die without seeing a doctor, nurse or any other allied health professional.
Angara commended the CHED for giving priority to the education of medical students in the country but to be able to sustain it, Congress needs to support the passage of SB 1157 so that the budget will be assured every year.