At least P4.6B needed to expand PH capacity to teach medicine — CHEd

MANILA, Philippines — At least P4.6 billion would be needed to expand the capacity of Philippine universities to teach medicine, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) told senators Monday following Congress’ approval of a measure that would grant full scholarships to eligible Filipino students.

“Overall, the projected for the expansion of the medical program under the ‘Doktor Para sa Bayan’ bill would be about P4.6 billion. So this is the bare bones budget that has been estimated to increase the number of medical students to about 5,368 per year,” CHEd chair Prospero De Vera III said during the deliberations of the commission’s budget at the Senate.

The P4.6 billion, De Vera explained, includes the projected funding needed for the initial operation cost of state universities and colleges (SUCs) with ongoing application to offer a medical program as well as the budget needed to increase by 30 percent the carrying capacity institutions already offering medical programs.

According to the CHEd chair, there are currently nine SUCs across seven regions with medical programs.

Meanwhile, De Vera said there are three SUCs that have “already applied to the commission for their medical program” namely the Cebu Normal University, Western Mindanao University and the University of Southern Philippines.

Earlier, the Senate and the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to grant full medical scholarships in a bid to address the shortage of doctors in the country.

Dubbed as the “Doktor Para sa Bayan Act,” the Senate’s version of the bill aims to provide a medical scholarship and return service program for “deserving Filipino students”  in SUCs and in partner private higher education institutions (PHEIs) in regions with no SUCs offering medicine.

The scholarship grant will cover tuition and all other school fees, including board and lodging, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Internship, medical board review, and licensure fees will also be included in the scholarship.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, the principal author of the measure, said the approval of the bill has come “at the most opportune time” with the country reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

“This law will help the healthcare system sector to be better prepared for similar health emergencies in the future,” Sotto said following the approval of the bill in the Senate last September 14.

The Senate leader added that the measure would “help financially-challenged but deserving students to pursue their dreams of becoming medical doctors to serve our country and our countrymen.”