Senate ratifies final version of medical scholarship bill
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate ratified on Thursday the final version of the proposed Doktor Para sa Bayan Act seeking to grant full medical scholarships to eligible Filipinos students in a bid to address the shortage of doctors in the Philippines.
During the plenary session, Senator Joel Villanueva, sponsor of the bill, presented the bicameral conference committee report on the disagreeing provisions of the measure, which was later adopted and ratified.
“Let me reiterate that the beneficiaries of the free medical education are required to render a return service, fitting and proper to the Filipino people, from medical doctors who were educated from the taxpayers’ money,” Villanueva said.
“Hindi pa po tayo tagumpay sa COVID-19. Pero dahil sa ratipikasyon ngayon ng bicam report ng ‘Doktor Para sa Bayan Bill’ at harinawa, ang agarang pagpirma rito ng ating Pangulo, binibigyan natin ng mas malaking tiyansa ang susunod na henerasyon ng mga Pilipinong manalo laban sa mga sakit o anumang uri pandemya,” he added.
(We have yet to win this battle against COVID-19, but because of the ratification of the bicam report of the ‘Doktor Para sa Bayan’ bill and hopefully with its immediate enactment with the President’s signature, the next generation can have a higher chance to beat any health crisis or pandemic in the future.)
The bill seeks to provide a medical scholarship and return service program for “deserving Filipino students” in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and in partner private higher education institutions (PHEIs) in regions with no SUCs offering medicine.
The measure will give priority to qualified and deserving Filipino students from municipalities without government physicians to “ensure, or to achieve, the goal of assigning of at least one doctor for every municipality in the country.”
At present, the Philippines only has three doctors per 10,000 people, which is “far from the ideal ratio of 10 doctors per 10,000 population,” according to Villanueva.
“The coronavirus pandemic has only exposed and exacerbated the Achilles’ heel of our healthcare system: the shrinking supply of Filipino medical doctors,” he said.
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.
The measure sets conditions on scholarship grant such as the requirements for scholars to finish the entire Doctor of Medicine Program within the prescribed time frame and to render a return of service equivalent to the number of years they availed of the scholarship.
Should a beneficiary refuse to comply with the mandatory return service, the bill will impose sanctions, including the payment equivalent to twice the full cost of the scholarship expenses.
Under the measure, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) is “mandated to streamline the requirements for the application for authority to offer Doctor of Medicine Program.”
The CHEd is also tasked to strengthen the partnership between SUCs and DOH hospitals to increase the number of medical schools throughout the country with one region having at least one state-operated medical school in the next five years.
The bill includes a transitory provision wherein all scholars under the existing medical scholarship programs of the Department of Health (DOH) and CHEd will automatically be eligible to avail the benefits under the measure.
“The bill lays down the key roles of the CHED, DOH, SUCs and the partner private Higher Education Institutions, as well as of the local government units in line with the implementation of this measure,” Villanueva said.
Once the bicameral conference committee report on the bill has been ratified by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, it will be transmitted to the Office of the President for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.