Citing data from the Philippine College of Physicians that there are only 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 Filipinos and that three out of five Filipinos died without seeing a doctor, Senator Sonny Angara wants to create a medical scholarship program to address the shortage of doctors in the country.
“The lack and the maldistribution of doctors and healthcare professionals in the country is truly alarming,” said Angara in pushing for the immediate passage of the bill for the said scholarship.
He noted that majority of Filipino doctors and medical specialists are concentrated in urban centers and larger municipalities, leaving far-flung communities largely unserved.
The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 population in order to deliver essential health services.
“This means the country needs 10 times more our current number of health workers to be able to adequately meet the health needs of Filipinos,” he said.
Angara said that three out of five Filipinos die without seeing a doctor, nurse or any other allied health professional.
“Hindi na ho biro ang laki ng kakulangan ng doktor sa bansa.”
He cited as an example the lack of psychiatrists and therapists in the country. He said the Philippines has only 490 psychiatrists or one psychiatrist per 250,000 Filipinos—a far cry from the standard ratio of one per 50,000 people.
“Sometimes, it could take six months before getting a schedule for an appointment for s specialist here in Manila,” said Angara.
“Mas mabigat na pasanin pa ito para sa mga taga-probinsya na kailangan pang dumayo sa Manila para magpatingin at magpagamot. Bukod sa bayarin sa ospital, iisipin pa nila ang gastos sa pamasahe,” he added.
Under Angara’s Senate Bill 1157, the medical scholarship program will include free tuition and other school fees, as well as an allowance for 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.
The bill further requires beneficiaries to serve their provincial hospital for at least five years upon passing the medical board examination.
The lawmaker explained that such provision is intended to address the exodus of Filipino medical professionals.
Data from the UP College of Medicine showed that about 80% of its graduates leave the country to practice medicine abroad.
At present, the Commission on Higher Education has allocated P250 million to provide free tuition for medical students for academic year 2018-2019 in eight state universities and colleges including: University of Northern Philippines, Mariano Marcos State University, Cagayan State University, Bicol University, West Visayas State University, University of the Philippines (UP) Leyte, Mindanao State University, and UP Manila.
Beneficiaries of the tuition subsidy will be required to render one year of return service for every year of cash grant received. They can serve as doctors in government or private hospitals, local government health facilities or become doctors to the barrios.
“We need to institutionalize our medical scholarship program. Ito ay para masiguro na taun-taon mayroong pondo, at para masiguro din na taun-taon dumarami ang bilang ng mga doktor sa bansa,” Angara said.