Press Release
June 13, 2018

3 of 5 Filipinos die without seeing a doctor

Senator Sonny Angara is pushing for the immediate passage of the bill that seeks 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. Most doctors and medical specialists are concentrated in urban centers and larger municipalities, leaving far-flung communities largely unserved," Angara said.

The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 population in order to deliver essential health services.

In the Philippines, there are only 2.3 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 Filipinos, based on the data from the Philippine College of Physicians.

"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. 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," Angara said.

The senator has cited as an example the lack of psychiatrists and therapists in the country. The Philippines has only 490 psychiatrists or one psychiatrist per 250,000 Filipinos--a far cry from the standard ratio of 1 per 50,000 people.

"Minsan nga, umaabot ng anim na buwan bago makapagpa-schedule ng appointment sa isang espesyalista dito sa Manila. 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 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.

"Dahil sobrang mahal mag-aral sa med school, mas pinipili nilang magtrabaho sa ibang bansa kung saan doble o triple ang kita para lang mabawi ang ginastos sa pag-aaral. Our bill aims to give free medical education so that our graduates will choose to stay in the country and serve their provinces. Our goal is to improve the access to quality health care and ensure the availability of doctors in all parts of the country," Angara said.

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.

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