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Bill seeking state medical scholarship moves forward in House.

By Ellson Quismorio

The funding provision of a proposed statute that seeks to cure the "acute brain drain" that is believed to be afflicting the country's medical sector has been approved by the House Appropriations Committee.

Davao City 1st District Rep. Karlo Nograles, the chair of the committee, said a substitute bill titled the "Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program Act" has met the requirements set by the appropriations panel, getting the green light for plenary discussion.

"The exodus of Filipino doctors from the country has been a brewing problem for almost two decades now. Because of economic reasons, local doctors have been setting aside their MDs to become registered nurses abroad," Nograles said.

"While there are still a lot of nationalistic doctors who choose to stay and serve their compatriots here, the government must also do what it can to ensure a steady stream of competent and well-trained medical professionals who will stay put, even for just a few years. Institutionalizing a Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program law is one way to do this," Nograles added.

The currently unnumbered bill is a consolidation of 10 measures, namely House Bill (HB) Nos. 898, 2166, 2951, 3472, 3586, 4025, 5990, 6213, 6286, and 6361.

The resulting bill seeks the creation of a medical scholarship program in state universities and colleges (SUCs) that are qualified to offer a course in medicine.

Nograles said that a key feature of the proposed law is the effort to augment the presence of physicians in far-flung areas of the country, especially in barrios.

"In line with this, the medical scholarship program encourages the enrollment of at least one beneficiary from each province or municipality in the Philippines provided that these aspiring doctors have passed the SUC's qualification requirements," he said.

Included in the scholarship program are the following: tuition and other school fees; allowance for prescribed books, supplies and equipment; uniform allowance; dormitory/boarding house allowance; transportation allowance; miscellaneous education/living-related allowance, and medical board review expenses.

"The high cost of putting a person through medical school has also been a contributing factor to the scarcity of doctors. In that regard, this measure certainly fulfills the maxim, 'those who have less in life should have more in law,'" the solon said.

Once the beneficiaries become doctors, they will be required under the proposed act to perform mandatory service in the public health and medical service system in his or her hometown or any municipality or rural community in the province.

This mandatory service will last a total of eight years, or two years for every scholarship year availed of.

Lopsided ratio

Nograles noted that according to the Department of Health (DOH), in 2014, the Philippines only had three government doctors for every 100,000 patients.

"This is a very lopsided figure considering the fact that health care is a centerpiece program of the Duterte administration," said Nograles.

The idea ratio is no less than 1.5 doctors for every 1,000 people.


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Title Annotation:Metro
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Nov 26, 2017
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