The Senate on Thursday ratified the "Doktor Para sa Bayan Act" which Sen. Joel Villanueva described as a landmark legislation that will improve the Filipino people's access to free medical education and as well as expand the country's human resources for public health.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Villanueva stressed that the approval of the Bicam report was timely as it showed that public health remained the Senate's priority amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The coronavirus pandemic has only exposed and exacerbated the Achilles' heel of our healthcare system: the shrinking supply of Filipino medical doctors. Imagine, we only have 3 doctors per 10,000 populations, far from the ideal ratio of 10 doctors per 10,000 populations," said Villanueva, principal author and principal sponsor of the measure.
The bill sets up a medical scholarship and return service program, which grants scholarships to deserving students aspiring to become physicians. It seeks to encourage students to take up medicine, and help improve the country's doctor-patient ratio, which is currently at a dismal three doctors per 10,000 populations according to health department data. The country needs to produce over 80,000 doctors to meet the WHO-prescribed ratio of 10 doctors per 10,000 populations.
Villanueva said the bill would establish the Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program for deserving Filipino students with priority for qualified applicants from municipalities without government physicians to ensure the assignment of at least one doctor for every municipality in the country.
"This bill provides free tuition and other school fees including allowances and fees for internship, medical board review and licensure examination and sets conditions on scholarship grant such as the requirements for scholars to finish the entire Doctor of Medicine Program within the prescribed time frame and to render a return of service equivalent to the number of years he or she has availed of the scholarship." Villanueva said in his speech.
"It will also consolidate and harmonizes all Nationally-Funded Medical Scholarship Programs under the Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program as well as require the Commission on Higher Education to streamline the requirements for the application for authority to offer Doctor of Medicine Program," Villanueva added.
The implementation of the measure will strengthen the cooperation among state universities and colleges with government hospitals to increase the number of medical schools throughout the country with one region having at least one state-operated medical school, he added.
The senator also disclosed that a transitory provision was included in the measure mandating that all scholars under the existing medical scholarship programs of Department of health and CHED shall automatically be eligible to avail the benefits.
In its first year, the bill intends to double the number of scholars under existing scholarship programs of the DOH and the CHED, which currently have around 3,000 scholars, explained Villanueva. (OSJV)
Receive email updates from Mindanao Daily News.