Press Release
September 17, 2020

Bong Go renews call for passage of bill creating Medical Reserve Corps; pushes for measures seeking to improve the delivery of health services to Filipinos

During a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Health and Demography on Tuesday, September 15, Senator and Committee Chair Christopher "Bong" Go called for the timely passage of a bill seeking to create a Medical Reserve Corps that may be mobilized during national emergencies to bolster the existing health force and support emergency response efforts.

"The reality is, our medical personnel are strained by the number of COVID-19 patients which hinders our capacity to combat the disease immediately and effectively. Thus, we urgently see the need for a Medical Reserve Corps. In his recent State of the Nation Address, the President has acknowledged the need for this measure and encouraged Congress to pass a law instituting the Medical Reserve Corps," said Go.

During the hearing, Dir. Gloria J. Balboa of the Department of Health's Health Emergency Management Bureau expressed their support for the measure which will "complement the minimum population-based health service components of the province or city-wide health systems" outlined in the implementing rules and regulations of the Universal Health Care Act which, in turn, mandates the establishment of a "timely, effective and efficient preparedness and response to public health emergencies and disasters".

Senate Bill No. 1451, also known as the Medical Reserve Corps Act of 2020, gives the Secretary of Health the authority to mobilize, in coordination with the Secretaries of the Department of National Defense, Department of Education and Department of Interior and Local Government, persons with degrees in medicine, nursing, medical technology and other health-related fields who have yet to obtain their licenses. Those deployed shall be properly compensated.

"Bibigyan po nito ng oportunidad ang mga Pilipino, lalo na ang ating mga healthcare professionals, na magserbisyo sa kanilang kapwa Pilipino at makapagsilbi sa kanilang bayan," Go said.

The Secretary of Health may approve or disapprove a request for deployment from a national government agency or local government unit if the number of personnel requested does not exceed 150 and the period of deployment does not exceed 60 days.

However, if the number of personnel requested exceeds 150 or the period of deployment exceeds 60 days, the Secretary of Health must make a recommendation to the Office of the President which shall be obliged to decide on the request within 24 hours.

In case of a declaration of war or state of emergency, the Secretary of Health may recommend the mobilization of the Corps to the President. The President shall also have the authority to assemble the Medical Reserve Corps.

Once deployed, the personnel of the Corps shall assist and supplement the public health and medical response system of the national government or a local government unit. They will be trained occasionally to ensure they maintain the appropriate level of skills, knowledge and abilities.

Go's proposed measure likewise directs the DOH to establish and maintain a registry of public health and medical graduates. Upon completing their degrees, the graduates will be issued individual serial numbers which shall serve as their identification in case of deployment.

In addition, the DOH shall publish an annual report outlining its accomplishments, the status of its operations, number and demography of the Medical Reserve Corps, an assessment of their readiness for mobilization, an account of the each mobilization for the year and finally, an audit of the funds spent, collected or advanced.

A Medical Reserve Corps Fund will be set up exclusively for the implementation of the objectives and purposes of the bill.

The Senator also called upon Congress during the hearing to pass SBN 1803, filed by Go last September 1, which will institutionalize a system for providing e-Health services, implement a mechanism for providing such services to Filipinos, regulate the practice of telemedicine and e-Health, and establish standards of practice.

Furthermore, they discussed House Bill No. 6849 which shall increase the authorized bed capacity of the Benguet General Hospital in La Trinidad, Benguet from 200 to 400 beds.

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