MANILA (DWDD) – Lamenting the shortage of doctors especially in rural areas, Senator Sonny Angara is pushing for the passage of a bill that seeks to establish a medical scholarship program to address the lack of available doctors to serve underprivileged Filipinos in far-flung communities.
“The lack or the maldistribution of doctors and healthcare professionals in the country is very alarming. Most doctors and medical specialists are concentrated in urban centres and larger municipalities, leaving far-flung communities largely unserved,” Angara said.
At present, according to the Department of Health (DOH), there is one doctor for every 33,000 Filipinos–a far cry from the World Health Organization (WHO) standard which is one doctor for every 20,000 population.
Recent data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that three out of five Filipinos passes away without seeing a doctor, nurse or any other allied health professional.
This year, a total of 2,899 out of 3,695 passed the physician licensure examinations.
However, according to data from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM), about 80 percent of its graduates leave the country to practice medicine abroad.
Of the 946 slots this year for the Doctor to the Barrios program of the DOH, in which the government shoulders the pay of doctors deployed to poor and remote towns, the actual number of takers for these slots was only 373.
“The high cost of study of medicine 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,” Angara said.
Angara’s Senate Bill 1157 mandates the creation of a scholarship program for medicine to be implemented by the UPCM. Such scholarship program will include free tuition and other school fees, allowance for prescribed books, supplies and equipment, clothing and uniform, housing accommodation, transportation and other related miscellaneous living allowances.
Under the proposed measure, the scholarship program shall accept at least one beneficiary, who passed the qualifying requirements of the UPCM, 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 DOH.
The beneficiaries shall be required to serve their provincial hospital for at least five years upon passing the medical board examination.
If the beneficiary failed to finish the course, he or she is obliged to pay the full amount of the scholarship that has already been given.
UP and DOH shall include in their annual budget the funds necessary to implement the medical scholarship program. SENATE / MCAG