Bong Go sponsors bill for regional specialty centers, better healthcare access
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has sponsored the Committee Report on Senate Bill No. 2212 or the proposed “Regional Specialty Centers Act” before the Senate plenary on Wednesday, May 17, highlighting the urgent need to provide access to specialized healthcare services to Filipinos across the country.
The substitute bill consolidates various proposals concerning specialty hospitals and centers, including a measure introduced by Senator Go himself. Senate President Miguel Zubiri is the principal author, while Senators Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito, Francis Escudero, Pia Cayetano, Jinggoy Estrada, Imee Marcos, Robin Padilla, and Sherwin Gatchalian also authored the bill. Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Ronald dela Rosa expressed their interest in co-authoring the measure.
During his sponsorship speech, Go explained that the proposed legislation aims to establish specialty centers in selected Department of Health (DOH) hospitals nationwide, focusing on mental health services.
“Hindi po dapat mahirapan ang ating mga kababayan na maka-access sa serbisyo ng gobyerno lalo na pagdating sa usaping kalusugan. Tayo po ang dapat maglapit ng serbisyo ng gobyerno sa mga tao,” he said.
(We should not burden our fellow Filipinos in accessing government services, particularly regarding health. We must bring government services closer to the people.)
“Ito ang dahilan kung bakit ko po isinulong ang mga Malasakit Centers— para ang gobyerno po ang lumapit sa mga tao, lalung-lalo na po yung mga mahihirap,” he added.
(This is why I pushed for establishing Malasakit Centers—to bring the government closer to the people, especially the underprivileged.)
Go highlighted that leveraging existing infrastructure and healthcare professionals in these hospitals would be more cost-efficient, practical, and time-saving than constructing new facilities.
The bill mandates the DOH to establish specialty centers within five years in identified DOH hospitals in each region. The initial emphasis will be on heart, lung, and kidney centers, replicating the capabilities of the National Specialty Centers in Metro Manila.
The criteria for establishing these specialty centers include assessing the health needs and demands of the population, ensuring geographical accessibility to the hospital, considering the role of the hospital as a referral center, evaluating the availability of specialized healthcare professionals, and assessing the hospital’s operational and financial performance.
To ensure the effectiveness and quality of the specialty centers, the DOH will collaborate with the National Specialty Centers, providing necessary training, expert personnel, and specialist equipment.
The capital outlay investments for these designated specialty centers will be included in the Health Facilities Enhancement Program. The DOH will work with the Department of Budget and Management to develop staffing patterns and standards for the centers, ensuring sufficient positions for healthcare workers.
Go emphasized that this approach aligns with the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., which underscores the need to establish specialty centers in various regions.
“After all, it is enshrined in our Constitution, as a matter of state policy, that ‘the State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people’ and that ‘the State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health, and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost’,” he pointed out.
Go acknowledged the significance of the Universal Health Care Act (Republic Act No. 11223) in ensuring equitable access to quality and affordable health services for all Filipinos. However, he lamented the limited access to hospitals providing specialized healthcare services.
“These specialty hospitals are some of the best in our country. They provide quality and affordable healthcare. They possess the necessary equipment, experience, doctors, technology, and expertise and are frequently visited by medical practitioners,” Go stated.
Most specialty hospitals are concentrated in Metro Manila, including the Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, among others.
“Kaya naman karamihan sa ating mga kababayan na may malubhang sakit mula sa iba’t ibang parte ng ating bansa ay gustong magpagamot sa mga specialty centers dito sa Maynila. Marami sa kanila ang namamasahe at pumupunta pa ng Maynila. Dagdag pa sa iisipin nila ang transportation,” he pointed out.
(Many individuals with serious illnesses from different parts of the country prefer to seek treatment in these specialty centers in Manila. They endure long travels and additional transportation costs. Moreover, they face high prices of goods compared to their provinces. All these burdens weigh on our fellow Filipinos.)
For many, the financial burden overshadows the hope of recovery, leading to dire consequences.
“Before they even consider the chances of their patients’ recovery, they often worry about the expenses associated with traveling to Metro Manila. Some choose not to seek medical attention due to fears of hospital bills. As a result, they succumb to their illnesses, and it is the poor who suffer the most as they lack the means to access treatment in these specialty hospitals,” Go lamented.
Go also highlighted that establishing specialty centers in different DOH hospitals would help alleviate the congestion of specialty hospitals in Metro Manila. For instance, creating mental health centers in various DOH hospitals would reduce the burden on the National Center for Mental Health.
Go referred to President Marcos’ State of the Nation Address, where he acknowledged the importance of specialty hospitals and emphasized the need to establish such facilities outside Metro Manila.
“I agree with President Marcos. Heart and lung diseases are not exclusive to Metro Manila,” Go asserted.
“During my visits to different parts of the country, many people approached me not only seeking medical treatment but also requesting financial assistance for travel to Manila, where fully equipped hospitals capable of treating them are located,” he added.
Go expressed his hope that establishing specialty centers would strengthen the healthcare system and make specialized health services accessible to all Filipinos, aligning with the vision of Universal Health Care.
“In the end, this is the people’s money. Let us give it back to them by providing easier access and improved services. Let us bring medical services closer to our fellow Filipinos, especially the underprivileged,” he concluded.