Press Release
August 30, 2023

Let us take care of the health of poor Filipinos, says Bong Go as he vows to push for additional budget for health

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography and Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, has once again reiterated the continuing need to prioritize the health of underprivileged Filipinos and underscored the significance of preparedness in the face of potential health crises.

In an interview after his visit to Parañaque City on Monday, August 28, Go stressed the need to allocate more resources to the Department of Health (DOH). He emphasized the importance of ensuring that even the most economically disadvantaged individuals in the country have access to quality healthcare services.

Go pointed out the concern generated by the proposed P10 billion reduction in DOH's 2024 budget, particularly given ongoing efforts toward pandemic recovery and the need for a more resilient healthcare system.

"Alam n'yo the more we should invest sa ating healthcare system, dapat handa tayo. Nabigla tayo noong 2020 sa pandemyang dumating sa buhay natin," Go urged his fellow lawmakers.

"Halos lahat ng budget ng gobyerno nagamit. So mas mabuti nang mas handa tayo at i-improve pa natin ang ating healthcare system," he added.

The senator also emphasized government's responsibilities, especially towards healthcare workers, and recollected his endeavors in the preceding year to increase DOH's budget from P296 billion to P316 billion.

Go's forward-thinking was evident when he recounted the near budget reduction of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in 2019, a crucial institution responsible for COVID-19 testing. He shared, "Sino ba ang mag-aakala na 'yun ang pinakaimportanteng opisina sa panahon ng pandemya? Kutob ko lang 'yan. Hindi po ako pumayag na mabawasan. In fact, dinagdagan pa natin during the budget deliberations para 'wag mabawasan at nadagdagan pa ang RITM."

"Tama 'yung kutob ko, 'yun pa naman ang naging pinakaimportanteng opisina sa panahon ng pandemya dahil sila po ang unang nagko-conduct ng mga testing na ipinapadala pa nila sa Australia at sila po 'yung may kakayahan na mag-test po ng COVID at saka itong mga infectious diseases na sakit," he continued.

He likewise outlined various initiatives, including allocating additional budget for the Cancer Assistance Fund to support cancer treatment, overseeing health facilities and services regulation, funding the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), providing medical assistance to indigent patients, and securing health emergency allowances.

"Nabawasan po ang proposed NEP (National Expenditure Program) at tayo naman isusulong pa rin natin ito na madagdagan. 'Yung cancer assistance fund nu'ng nakaraang taon wala po sa NEP. Dinagdagan po ng Lower House, dinadagdagan namin sa Senado at ngayon po isusulong ko na madoble po ito. Dahil ang hirap magkasakit ng cancer, magastos po 'yan," Go cited.

"Talagang pilay po ang pamilya tuwing mayroon pong nagkaka-cancer sa pamilya. Suportahan po natin thru the Cancer Assistance Fund. At marami pa pong ibang programa, siguraduhin natin na ma-restore natin, maibalik lalong-lalo na po ang mga makakatulong sa indigent patients natin, 'yung mga mahihirap po," he stressed.

Go has consistently emphasized his unwavering commitment to fortify the health sector of the country. His dedication is evident through various initiatives such as the establishment of Malasakit Centers, Super Health Centers, and Regional Specialty Centers nationwide.

A brainchild of Go, the Malasakit Centers bring together representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), DOH, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. These one-stop shops aim to support impoverished patients in reducing their hospital costs to the least possible amount.

To date, 158 operational centers have helped more than seven million Filipinos nationwide, according to DOH.

By establishing Super Health Centers throughout the country, the government aims to ensure that every Filipino, regardless of their location, can avail themselves of essential healthcare services without the burden of long-distance travel or prohibitive costs, the senator added.

The Super Health Center is a medium version of a polyclinic yet an improved version of the rural health unit. The services available in the center include database management, out-patient, birthing, isolation, diagnostic (laboratory: x-ray, ultrasound), pharmacy, and ambulatory surgical unit. Other available services are eye, ear, nose, and throat (EENT) service; oncology centers; physical therapy and rehabilitation center; and telemedicine, which makes remote diagnosis and treatment of patients possible.

Lastly, Go underscored the importance of bringing specialized medical services closer to communities by establishing dedicated specialty centers in regional hospitals under the DOH.

Go is the principal sponsor and one of the authors of the Regional Specialty Centers Act. The newly enacted law includes provisions for the establishment of specialty centers within existing government-controlled corporations or specialty hospitals. It also outlines the specific service capabilities that DOH will implement in regional hospitals.

"It's a multi-year plan. Kasama na po doon sa batas ang pagpopondo rin po na kaya nga po isinabatas natin para hindi po maantala. So ibig sabihin sa 2024 may pondo dapat, sa 2025 mayroon din dapat pong pondo," said Go.

"Isa po itong paraan na ilapit natin ang serbisyo medikal sa ating mga kababayan, (lalo na iyong mga mahihirap). Halimbawa, 'yung (may) heart (problems), kailangan pa silang magpaopera sa Maynila sa Heart Center. Ngayon po, doon na lang sila pumunta sa DOH regional hospital. Cancer care, doon na rin po sa mga DOH regional hospital. 'Yun po ang layunin nito na ilapit natin sa mga kababayan natin," he earlier said.

The initiative to establish Regional Specialty Centers is a key part of the health-related legislative agenda of the Marcos administration and is outlined in the Philippine Development Plan 2023 to 2028.

"Unahin po natin ang mga mahihirap nating kababayan, unahin natin ang mga programang nakakatulong po sa indigents, sa mga mahihirap. Rest assured po, as your chairman ng Committee on Health, ipaglalaban natin ito. Isusulong natin na madagdagan pa ang budget sa Department of Health," he ended.

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