New breed of Filipino doctors

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    THE COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the nation untold hardship and deprivation, which people from all walks of life are still trying to find ways to cope with. On a positive note, the epidemic also prodded our lawmakers to respond with relevant legislation to address the obvious lack of doctors, along with hospitals, medical supplies and facilities, especially in remote provinces.

    One such legislative measure, which passed the Senate and the House of Representatives last week, is the Doktor Para Sa Bayan bill, which will be sent to President Duterte for approval. Sen. Joel Villanueva said the bill, if signed into law, would establish a Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program which will prioritize applicants from towns without government physicians.

    Meanwhile, Quezon 4th District Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan, chair of the committee on health, hailed the ratification of the reconciled and consolidated Senate and House bills on the proposed Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program or the “Doktor Para sa Bayan Act.”

    ‘We hope that when signed into law, the government will speed up the implementation of this measure so that more physicians — the new breed of Filipino doctors — will be deployed in the remote rural areas where they are most needed.’

    Tan, a physician and principal author of the measure, thanked Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco for the swift ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the bill, which seeks to address the shortage of doctors in the country. Along with the 2021 National Budget, this bill is one of the first measures passed by the House under the new leadership of Speaker Velasco.

    “The Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program for deserving students has now become even more important in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The enactment of this measure is one of the enormously significant reforms of our time,” Tan said.

    The demure lady congresswoman from Quezon had been unceremoniously stripped of her Health committee chairmanship by former speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, but was restored to her position two days later when Velasco was elected speaker. But even under any House leadership, Tan has quietly did her work in the health legislative sector, and managed to show great accomplishments. This new bicam-approved bill is not only a complementary measure to the Universal Health Care Act but it also is a way of honoring the sacrifices of many frontline doctors whose precious lives had been claimed by the current effort against the pandemic.

    Mindful of the need of her constituents in Quezon, Tan introduced an amendment making service in government hospitals in times of public health emergency as one of the conditions for the grant of medical scholarship. This program is the best possible solution in addressing the need of the marginalized Filipinos for the provision of professional healthcare services in the country, she said.

    When the senators were discussing this measure on the floor, Sen. Franklin Drilon brought up the issue that the government, through the state colleges and universities, are subsidizing the medical education of foreign students to the detriment of Filipino students of medicine who are being eased out from educational opportunities by foreigners. We recognize the merit of this observation by Drilon, and hope that Senators Villanueva, Christopher Go, Congresswoman Tan, Speaker Velasco and Senate President Vicente Sotto III could later study the matter in the hope of finding a solution.

    This medical scholarship program for Filipinos covers the provision of free tuition and other school fees, including allowances and fees for internship, medical board review, and licensure examination, said Tan.

    We hope that when signed into law, the government will speed up the implementation of this measure so that more physicians — the new breed of Filipino doctors — will be deployed in the remote rural areas where they are most needed.