Press Release
May 13, 2020

Senate Pres. Vicente C. Sotto III

I purposely chose Medical Scholarship Act as my number one priority bill, as such my bill is recorded as Senate Bill No. 1, not because I predicted the coming of the COVID-19 outbreak, but because the shortage of doctors is an on-going concern of the country, among other healthcare problems.

Mahatma Gandhi once said "It is health which is real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver." It is that important that it has been a declared policy of the State, and enshrined in the highest law of the land, to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.

However, even though the government is allotting so much of our limited resources for the country's healthcare - with an increasing budget and spending trend every year - it seems that there are still a lot of areas for improvement. One of the areas that have to be addressed is the worsening shortage of doctors. And this has been an alarming concern - even prior to this COVID-19 crisis. In a 2016 data, the doctor to patient ratio in the Philippines is 1:33,000. It is way, way below the World Health Organization's desirable doctor-population ratio of 1:1,000. Thus, there is undeniably a problem that needs to be remedied.

In addition to the scarcity in the number of doctors, another issue that has to be addressed in relation thereto is the severe "maldistribution" of physicians in the country caused by most doctors preferring to practice in the urban areas than in the rural. According to the article published by thePhilippine Center for Investigative Journalism on September 11, 2019, 65% of the total physicians in the public sector are working in Luzon, and 32% of which are in Metro Manila alone. Only 18% of government physicians are in the Visayas, and an even smaller number of 16% in Mindanao.

This proposed measure seeks to address both issues of scarcity and maldistribution of physicians because the granting of scholarships to deserving medical students would aid in the increase of the number of physicians in the country. At the same time, this proposed bill would require the scholar to serve in a government public health office or government hospital in his or her hometown, province or region. Such a situation would hopefully put a sense of balance in the distribution of doctors particularly in the government sector, which take care of nearly 70% of the health care needs of the population.

The immediate passage of this measure does not need to be emphasized. If we are not bound by any rules, I would immediately move for its approval now. But since we are, I sincerely hope for the expeditious approval of the Medical Scholarship Act.

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