Press Release
May 10, 2021

108 Malasakit Centers continue to provide convenient access to medical assistance nationwide as Bong Go lauds latest launch in Apayao

While helping the government address the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen the health care system amid the ongoing health crisis, Senator Christopher "Bong" Go also remains focused on achieving his vision of providing convenient access to health services nationwide.

He recently virtually attended the launch of the country's 108th Malasakit Center at the Conner District Hospital in Conner, Apayao on Friday, May 7. This is the fifth Malasakit Center in the Cordillera Administrative Region and the second in the province, the other being at the Far North General Hospital and Training Center in Luna town. The 107th Malasakit Center was also launched at the Luis Hora Memorial Regional Hospital in Bauko, Mountain Province on the same day.

In a speech he delivered, Go maintained that taking measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and ensure patients have access to medical care has always been a top priority of the Duterte Administration.

"Magtiwala tayo sa gobyerno. Ginagawa nito ang lahat para hindi bumagsak ang health care system at walang matatanggihan na ma-admit sa ospital. Ayaw natin na may mga severe cases na naghihingalo at nasa labas ng ospital nag-aantay para maasikaso," began Go.

"Bilang inyong Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, sisiguraduhin ko na ang kalusugan, kapakanan at interes ng bawat Pilipino ay mangunguna parati. Kung mayroon kayong reklamo, bukas ang aking opisina para tumulong, lalong-lalo na sa mga ospital na nangangailangan ng karagdagang hospital beds," he continued.

In this regard, the Senator revealed recent discussions with President Rodrigo Duterte and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated for the continued COVID-19 vaccine rollout even beyond this year.

"Dapat maging handa tayo ... hindi natin masasabi kung may dadarating bang bagong strain, kung kaya ba itong sugpuin ng mga kasalukuyang bakuna na binili natin. Ayaw nating mangyari dito ang nangyari sa India," said Go.

"Kaya binabalanse ng gobyerno ang mga interes ng ekonomiya at public health. Pero para sa akin, unahin natin dapat ang kalusugan at buhay ng bawat Pilipino. A life lost is a life lost forever kaya pangalagaan natin ito," he stressed.

Go also emphasized the need to invest more on health research as he cited how crucial it was for the country when he was able to successfully push for additional funding for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine which now plays an essential role in the country's pandemic response.

To ensure an adequate health care workforce capacity during the pandemic, the Senator also shared he had earlier urged the National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to include the frontline personnel of the Professional Regulation Commission, such as proctors and watchers, and board examiners in the A4 priority group for inoculation.

"Ipapabakuna natin sila para makapag-conduct na sila ng examinations para sa mga nurse at iba pang health graduates para makapag-board exams na sila. Lalo na ngayon, kailangan talaga natin ng mga health workers. Kulang talaga tayo sa mga lugar na nagkaroon ng surge, gaya ng Metro Manila," continued Go.

"Kaya maraming salamat kay Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino at sa mga ospital ng Region VII. Nakapagpadala sila ng almost 100 nurses and medical workers para tumulong sa mga bagong modular hospitals sa Maynila. Nakikita niyo naman, basta Pilipino, nagtutulungan, walang imposible," he said.

To improve access to health care for Filipinos, President Duterte signed Republic Act 11463 or the 'Malasakit Centers Act of 2019' on December 3, 2019. The law, which Go authored and sponsored in the Senate, directs the establishment of a Malasakit Center in the Philippine General Hospital in Manila City and the 73 hospitals administered or managed by the Department of Health.

Hospitals run by local government units and other public hospitals may also establish their own provided they meet a standard set of criteria to guarantee the sustainability of its operations.

Pioneered in 2018 by then Special Assistant to the President and now Senator Go, the center is a one-stop shop which brings together national agencies offering medical-related assistance programs. They include the DOH, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

The primary aim of the Malasakit Center is to reduce a hospital bill balance to the lowest amount possible with the government shouldering the cost of expenses. The program has benefitted an estimated two million Filipinos since its launch.

After the ceremony, Go's personnel provided meals, food packs, vitamins, masks and face shields to a total of 163 health workers and 17 patients. They gave selected health workers new pairs of shoes or bicycles so they can commute with ease while others received computer tablets for their children's school activities. Representatives from the DSWD also provided each beneficiary with financial assistance in a separate distribution.

The Senator expressed gratitude to the various government officials who worked together to provide the people of Apayao with better health care. He specifically thanked Secretary Dino of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, DOH Undersecretary Roger Tong-an, Assistant Secretary Girlie Veloso of the Office of the President, DSWD Assistant Secretary Victor Neri, Representative Elias Bulut, Jr., Governor Eleanor Begtang, and Mayor Martina Dangoy, among others.

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