Press Release
September 8, 2020

Passing on 2nd Reading, 'Doktor Para Sa Bayan' bill to improve medical access of Filipinos, Villanueva says

The Senate has passed on second reading the "Doktor Para Sa Bayan" bill that provides scholarships to aspiring doctors, and widens the availability of medical education, as the country seeks to improve people's access to medical attention, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.

The bill seeks to address the gap between doctors and patients as data shows that the country has 2.6 doctors for every 10,000 population, far from the ideal ratio of 10 doctors per 10,000 population, Villanueva explained.

"With this bill, our hope is to help improve the access of our students to medical education. We know for a fact that it is costly, and some even need to live away from their homes to be near. We are removing these major obstacles to help our students achieve their dreams and for our people to have better access to medical attention," Villanueva said in a statement.

"The problem of medical access is more pronounced now that we are in a pandemic. Our vision is to have sufficient doctors and healthcare workers so that our system can better take care of our people," the lawmaker added.

Through the Doktor Para Sa Bayan bill which sets up a medical scholarship and return service program, Villanueva hopes to encourage more students to take up medicine, and help improve the doctor-patient ratio. The country needs to produce over 80,000 doctors to meet the ideal doctor-patient ratio.

In the short term, the bill will double the number of scholars under existing scholarship programs of the Department of Health and the Commission on Higher Education, which currently have around 3,000 scholars, explained the lawmaker, chair of the Senate Committee on Higher and Technical and Vocational Education.

Under the bill, medical students in state universities and colleges, as well as private medical schools can apply to be included in the program.

Aside from setting up the scholarship program for deserving students seeking to study medicine to become a licensed doctor, Senate Bill No. 1520 set up a mechanism for state universities and colleges to partner with government hospitals to serve as training institutions, explained Villanueva, who authored and sponsored of the measure together with Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.

"We are grateful for the enthusiasm and support of our colleagues who gave their inputs to expand the impact of our bill in ensuring that our people have better access to doctors. Our people's need for improved access to medical attention is now more pronounced with the pandemic ongoing," Villanueva said.

Under Senate Bill No. 1520, the program shoulders the tuition and other miscellaneous fees of students.

After scholars complete their studies, they will be asked to serve in the country's public health system, providing a return-of-service equivalent to one year for every year of inclusion in the scholarship.

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