Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, urged Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Teodoro “Ted” Herbosa during a Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing on Tuesday, September 26, to bolster its initiatives towards providing better health services especially in the grassroots and particularly for poor and indigent patients needing government support.
Among those mentioned by Go is the continuing operations of Malasakit Centers in accordance with the law, the establishment of more Super Health Centers in strategic locations nationwide, and the proper implementation of the recently enacted Regional Specialty Centers Act.
“Sa inyong palagay, nakakatulong ba ang Malasakit Centers sa mga mahihirap nating kababayan? At hindi ba napapabayaan ang mga pasyente?” Go said during the Commission on Appointments hearing on the ad interim appointment of Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa which Go presided on that day.
As a response, Herbosa highlighted the significant number of patients served by the centers.
“Ang pinakamarami dito sa NCR, almost 607,000 at more than 200,000 sa iba’t ibang region. Almost every region is over 100,000-200,000 patients served,” Herbosa answered.
The senator also appealed to DOH to ensure that poor and indigent patients are given utmost attention in public hospitals. Go cited a recent department memorandum signed by Herbosa instructing medical center chiefs to ensure that all patients must be accorded with the available services in Malasakit Centers.
“Ang mga social workers doon sa loob ng Malasakit Centers — at ako mismo pagpupunta ako doon — sinasabihan ko talaga ang mga social workers, ‘Isa lang ang pakiusap ko sa inyo, as chairman ng Committee on Health, huwag niyo pabayaan ang mga mahihirap na pasyente’,” Go said.
The Malasakit Centers consist of various agencies offering medical assistance programs including the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), DOH, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
These centers were institutionalized under Republic Act No. 11463, principally authored and sponsored by Go. According to DOH, more than seven million indigent patients have already benefitted from the 159 Malasakit Centers established nationwide.
Go also discussed the importance of Super Health Centers, which serve as primary care facilities offering a range of services including consultations, laboratory tests, and minor treatments. These health facilities in communities aim to provide early detection of diseases and also decongest hospitals by providing immediate medical care.
“Kung nandiyan ang primary care, (magkakaroon ng) early detection… meaning… hindi lumala ang sakit at maagapan ito. It will also help decongest the hospitals,” Go explained.
Go also said free consultations handled by municipal health offices, LGUs, and PhilHealth through its Konsulta program can be facilitated in Super Health Centers.
Services offered in Super Health Centers include database management, out-patient, birthing, isolation, diagnostic (laboratory: x-ray and ultrasound), pharmacy and ambulatory surgical unit. Other available services are eye, ear, nose, and throat (EENT) service, oncology centers, physical therapy and rehabilitation center and telemedicine.
Go was instrumental in pushing for adequate funding to ensure that more Super Health Centers are established across the country. Some 307 Super Health Centers were funded in 2022 through Go’s initiative and with the help of LGUs, DOH and fellow lawmakers, and 322 more Super Health Centers in 2023.
Herbosa supported this initiative, stating that Super Health Centers are partnerships between the national and local governments.
Go then questioned Herbosa on whether there would be sufficient funding for the continuous operation of Malasakit Centers and Super Health Centers.
“Can you assure us that there is and there will be sufficient funding for the continuous operation of Malasakit Centers?” Go asked.
“We will assure the Commission na talagang tutulungan natin ang mga mahirap at nangangailangan using all the funds given by the Department of Health,” Herbosa responded.
Finally, Go also highlighted RA 11959 or the Regional Specialty Centers Act, a new law he principally sponsored and is one of the authors in the Senate, which mandates the establishment of specialized medical centers within existing DOH regional hospitals.
Echoing President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.’s priority of bringing specialized medical services closer to other parts of the country, Go reminded DOH that sufficient funding must be allocated for the proper implementation of the law.
“Ipagpatuloy natin na ilapit ang serbisyong medikal mula gobyerno sa ating mga kababayang mahihirap na walang ibang matakbuhan. The more we should support their health needs, the more na mag-invest po tayo sa ating healthcare system,” Go said.
“Huwag po natin silang pahirapan. Marami po sa mga kababayan natin sa iba’t ibang sulok ng Pilipinas na wala silang sariling health facility. Kaya importante na mailapit natin ang serbisyong medikal mula gobyerno sa mga taong nangangailangan nito,” he concluded.
The CA has suspended the confirmation of Herbosa as Health Secretary due to “lack of material time”, since Congress is set to go on break and will reconvene in November.