Senator Sonny Angara is pushing for the passage of a bill that seeks to establish a medical scholarship program in the country to ensure the availability of doctors in every province nationwide.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has recently announced that it has allocated P317 million from its 2017 budget to provide free tuition for medical students in eight state universities and colleges (SUCs) for academic year 2017-2018.
“We commend the CHED for giving priority to the education of our med students. To sustain this, I urge my colleagues to support the passage of the bill establishing a medical scholarship program in the country so that the budget for their free tuition will be assured every year,” Angara said.
According to CHED, new and continuing Filipino medical students can avail themselves of a full tuition subsidy from the following schools: University of Northern Philippines, Mariano Marcos State University, Cagayan State University, Bicol University, West Visayas State University, University of the Philippines (UP) Leyte, Mindanao State University, and UP Manila.
Beneficiaries of the tuition subsidy will be required to render one year of return service in the Philippines for every year of cash grant received. They can serve as doctors in government or private hospitals, local government health facilities or become doctors to the barrios.
Under Angara’s Senate Bill 1157, the medical scholarship program will not only include free tuition, but also allowance for prescribed books, supplies and equipment, clothing and uniform, housing accommodation, transportation and other related miscellaneous living allowances.
The proposed scholarship program shall accept at least one beneficiary from every province in the country. The number of beneficiaries per province shall depend on the number of medical doctors needed for each province as determined by the Department of Health (DOH).
“The lack or the maldistribution of doctors and healthcare professionals in the country is truly alarming. Most doctors and medical specialists are concentrated in urban centers and larger municipalities, leaving far-flung communities largely unserved,” the senator said.
At present, based on DOH data, there is one doctor for every 33,000 Filipinos–a far cry from the World Health Organization standard which is one doctor for every 20,000 population.
Recent data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that three out of five Filipinos die without seeing a doctor, nurse or any other allied health professional.
Angara’s bill further requires beneficiaries to serve their provincial hospital for at least five years upon passing the medical board examination.
Data from the UP College of Medicine showed that about 80 percent of its graduates leave the country to practice medicine abroad.
“The high cost of med school prompts new doctors to join private hospitals which offer higher pay. More lucrative opportunities abroad also lead to an exodus of medical professionals. This bill seeks to reverse these trends and address the continuing need for doctors in our provincial public hospitals,” the lawmaker said.
Angara also urged President Duterte to sign into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education bill to provide free education to all students enrolled in SUCs.