By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Efforts to provide better and more convenient access to public health services continue as Senator Christopher “Bong” Go virtually attended the launching of the country’s 106th Malasakit Center at the Don Jose S. Monfort Medical Center Extension Hospital in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo on Tuesday, May 4.
In his speech as a special guest, Go admitted that the country’s hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of patients seeking medical attention amid the COVID-19 pandemic and vowed to push for measures to boost the capacity of health facilities and improve access to public health services nationwide.
“Witness ako doon. Napakaraming hospitals ang kulang ang hospital beds. Wala pa ang pandemyang ito, nakikita ko nakalinya na ang mga kama sa labas ng corridor, ang mga batang pasyente nagtatabi sa isang kama. Paano natin mao-observe ang social distancing sa panahong ito kung ganyan ang sitwasyon natin?” began Go.
“Kaya I am here to give my support para ma-increase ang bed capacities ng ating public hospitals. I am very willing to help para mapabilis at mapirmahan agad ni Presidente Rodrigo Duterte ang mga kailangang batas,” he added.
The Senator also thanked medical frontliners for their service and sacrifices in the fight against COVID-19. He acknowledged the need to provide more support to medical frontliners as the number of new infections remain high in critical areas.
“Alam kong kulang na kulang ang ating health workers sa panahong ito at maraming mga bagong graduates ng medical fields ang gusto nang makapagserbisyo sa ating mga kababayan pero kailangan muna silang makapag-board exam,” said Go.
He earlier urged the government to take necessary steps to avoid further delays in the conduct of professional board exams particularly for nursing graduates in order to eventually augment the medical workforce.
The PRC announced that the May 2021 Nursing Licensure Exam schedule, which was previously re-scheduled to November 2021, will now push through on July 3-4, 2021.
“Nakausap ko ang Inter-Agency Task Force at last week pumayag na sila na bigyan priority ‘yung mga personnel at examiners ng Professional Regulation Commission para hindi maantala lalo ang nursing board exams,” he said. As earlier appealed by Go, the National Task Force Recovery Cluster agreed to include PRC frontline personnel in the A4 priority group for vaccination.
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Go gave his reassurance to the country’s medical frontliners of his unwavering commitment to promote their welfare and fight for their concerns.
“Bilang long-time health advocate, personal kong misyon ang palakasin ang kalusugan ng ating mga kababayan. Kaya sinisigurado ko na isusulong ko ang mga batas, polisiya at programa na magpapabuti ng kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino,” said Go.
“Ngayon na nasa gitna tayo ng pandemya, we are trying to balance the economy and public health. Pero para sa akin, dapat unahin natin ang kalusugan at buhay ng bawat Pilipino dahil a lost life is a lost life forever,” he emphasized.
To expand access to health care for the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, the Senator authored and sponsored the bill that became Republic Act No. 11463, otherwise known as the ‘Malasakit Centers Act of 2019’.
The Malasakit Center is a one-stop-shop which brings together under one roof the following national agencies from which patients may apply for medical assistance: the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
Under the law, all DOH-run hospitals, and the Philippine General Hospital in Manila are mandated to establish their own Malasakit Center. Hospitals run by local government units and other public hospitals may also establish their own provided they meet a standard set of criteria to guarantee the sustainability of its operations.
The Don Jose S. Monfort Medical Center is the second hospital in Iloilo to establish its own Malasakit Center, in addition to the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) in Iloilo City.
Go also sponsored and spearheaded the passage of the bill that became Republic Act 11496 which increased the WVMC’s bed capacity from 425 to 700 beds, upgraded its professional health care services and facilities, and authorized the increase of its medical personnel.
“Huwag po kayong magpasalamat sa amin ni Pangulong Duterte para sa Malasakit Center. Kami dapat ang nagpapasalamat dahil binigyan niyo kami ng pagkakataon na magserbisyo. Mga Bisaya, mga probinsyano po kami … na binigyan ng pagkakataon na maglingkod kaya hindi namin sasayangin ito. Up to the last day of our term and even beyond, magseserbisyo kami sa aming kapwa Pilipino,” vowed Go.
“Ito ang tanging layunin namin … wala nang ibang hangarin ang ating mahal na Pangulo kung hindi ang kabutihan ng taumbayan. Sinugal na niya ang lahat kaya sasamahan ko siya hanggang sa huli,” he continued.
The Senator’s personnel also provided selected hospital workers with new shoes while another set of beneficiaries were given bicycles. Others were provided with computer tablets which their children may use for their education.
They also distributed meals, food packs, vitamins, masks and face shields to a total of 80 staff members and 87 patients. Meanwhile, the DSWD handed out financial assistance to each beneficiary separately.
Go went on to recognize the various officials for their untiring service. Among those present during the activity were 4th District Representative Braeden John Biron, Iloilo City Rep. Julienne Baronda, Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, Assistant Secretary Girlie Veloso of the Office of President, DSWD Assistant Regional Director for Operations Delia Bagolcol, Chief of Hospital Dr. Mariano Hembra, and Chief of Clinics Dr. Ma. Nanette Pabilona.
He also acknowledged the local representatives of the Malasakit Center program’s partner agencies, namely PCSO Iloilo Assistant Branch Manager Ryan Avelino, PCSO Social Worker Nestle Joy Quintila, and PhilHealth Iloilo Management Services Division Head Janet Monteverde.
Last March 30, the Senator’s personnel also extended aid to hundreds of disadvantaged and displaced workers in Iloilo City. All activities were carried out in batches and in strict observance of the health and safety protocols against COVID-19. (AI/MTVN)