Press Release
September 17, 2021

Bong Go says country should not lose sight of other disease amid pandemic; pushes for measure to strengthen fight against TB

As the country battles the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go said that it should not lose sight of other diseases that are also plaguing the country.

In a hearing conducted by the health committee on Tuesday, September 14, and presided by Go, the Senator expressed his support for bills seeking to strengthen the national program for the elimination of tuberculosis.

"Tuberculosis or TB is a major public health problem. Itong TB naging major public health problem po dito sa Pilipinas for decades now. In 2010, TB was the 6th leading cause of mortality," Go noted.

"According to the World Health Organization report last 2019, about 1 million Filipinos have active TB disease. The WHO (World Health Organization) also reported in 2020 that the Philippines has the highest TB incidence rate in Asia," he added.

In finding and treating identified TB patients promptly, Go explained that case notification is an important activity, citing the Department of Health and the WHO.

"This will help reduce the spread of TB and set the course for its elimination," he said.

In light of the government's current efforts and initiatives, Go shared that he filed Senate Bill No. 1748 to strengthen the national program for the elimination of tuberculosis. This is to ensure the realization of our country's vision to eliminate deaths, disease, and suffering due to tuberculosis.

SBN 1748 seeks to amend Republic Act No. 10767, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Tuberculosis Elimination Plan Act. The proposed measure will provide for the creation of a TB registry and monitoring system which will address the issue of the underreporting of TB cases, a gap identified in the 2016 National TB Prevalence Survey.

The registry will record the personal information of all TB patients, the TB type and the treatment received, among others.

"So as to achieve solutions for the current gaps in the program, the bill seeks to provide a TB registry, monitoring and surveillance system. To further help TB patients, this proposal will also expand PhilHealth's benefit package to include new, relapse and return-after-default cases, and provide extension of treatment," explained the Senator during the hearing.

"Moreover, the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of the Interior and Local Government and other appropriate government agencies shall develop a comprehensive program of support services for TB victims and their affected children and families," he added.

The bill also seeks to expand PhilHealth's benefit package for patients, adults and children alike, to include the coverage of multidrug resistant tuberculosis and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis.

The DOH has expressed support for Go's measure, saying that almost five years after the Comprehensive Tuberculosis Elimination Plan Act enactment, TB still remains one of the most prevalent public health concerns in the country.

They also recommended the adoption of the Mandatory TB Notification structure provided for under DOH Administrative Order No. 2020-0057 which "holds all rural health units and health centers and designated TB notification officers at the municipality, city, provincial, and regional levels responsible for the collection, consolidation and analysis of TB notification reports and submission to higher levels, in collaboration with the National TB Control Program coordinators and point persons."

The health department also recommended the expansion of the PhilHealth benefit package to include TB preventive treatment and all TB cases; and the strengthening of the existing Integrated Tuberculosis Information System, which is used to collect, consolidate and report TB data from all health facilities managing TB cases.

Go previously stated that he will continue to push for key healthcare bills in the Senate to ensure that our people have better access to healthcare. Every Filipino has the right to proper healthcare, Go said.

"Magmalasakit po tayo sa ating mga kababayan na nangangailangan ng tulong upang maalagaan ang kanilang kalusugan. Bigyan po natin sila ng mabilis, maayos at maaasahang serbisyong medikal kahit saan mang parte sila ng bansa," Go said.

"Bilang chair ng Senate Committee on Health, makaaasa din po ang ating mga kababayan na hindi natin sila bibiguin at patuloy nating ipaglalaban ang mga polisiya na magtataguyod ng komportableng buhay para sa kanila. Kalusugan po ng ating mga kababayan ang pangunahin nating konsiderasyon," he added.

Aside from SBN 1748, Go also filed SBN 1749 which aims to ensure that comprehensive renal replacement therapy services are available to all Filipinos suffering End-Stage Kidney Disease. It expands PhilHealth's benefits package for kidney transplantation and provides for the provision of free dialysis services to indigent patients.

The measure also mandates all national, regional and provincial public hospitals to establish their own dialysis service facility.

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