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Reaching Senate plenary is the proposed Regional Specialty Centers Act.

Wednesday saw the introduction of Senate Bill 2212, also known as the Regional Specialty Centers Act, one of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s top priorities.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito, Ramon Revilla Jr., and Pia Cayetano co-sponsored Senate Bill 2212, sponsored by Senator Christopher Lawrence Go.

Go stated in his statement at the sponsorship event that few facilities offer specialist medical care, most of which are found in Metro Manila.

He named the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, and Lung Center of the Philippines the top medical facilities for very ill Filipinos.

“Anamamasahe at pumupunta pa ng Maynila marami sa kanila. Transportation is currently in a dagdag situation. If she continues to live in Metro Manila, that will be a problem. And many of them must pay for transportation, which is what is meant by the mataas na presyo ng mga bilihin kumpara sa kanilang mga probinsya. In addition, Go noted that they must think about lodging and the higher cost of living in Metro Manila than in their home provinces.

“We must provide our people in the provinces with these specialist medical treatments. He continued that we need to relieve our people of the needless strain of making long trips and paying extra money to access these services.

The statement made by Marcos in his first State of the Nation Address, in which he mentioned how Filipinos could benefit from these specialty hospitals, is in line with Senate Bill 2212, according to Go, chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography. Marcos said these hospitals should be expanded to other parts of the country.

He further noted that the Philippine Development Plan 2023 to 2028, signed by President Marcos, includes the development of specialist centers as one of its health-related legislative priorities.

“Ako po ginagawa kay Pangulong Marcos. In Metro Manila, there isn’t really any such thing as may sakit in a bag or a puso. Iba may be humihingi ng pamasahe para lang bumiyahe sa Maynila, pero sa pag-iikot ko po sa iba’t ibang parte ng bansa, napakadaming lumalapit sa akin hindi lang para magpagamot. Like President Marcos, I concur. Not only residents of Metro Manila suffer from heart or lung conditions. Many residents of the provinces I visited requested assistance not only for their medical care but also for transportation to Metro Manila),” Go stated.

If Senate Bill 2212 becomes law, the Department of Health (DOH) will construct specialty centers in designated DOH hospitals in every region to relieve pressure on the Metro Manila area’s specialty hospitals.

The DOH and the specialty hospitals unanimously supported the idea at the committee hearing because regional healthcare professionals and other staff are already on hand and accessible in the regional hospitals.

Go added that rather than building new specialty hospitals, the infrastructure, and equipment would only need to be modernized and supplemented.

The DOH designated a few of its hospitals as specialty centers in 2021, and the Department Order that year still serves as a guide for the organization and its hospitals.

Go said that legislative action is required to ensure ongoing funding and ensure that the government will give specialization centers in DOH hospitals top priority.

The DOH must build at least one specialist center in each region within five years of the law’s passage, focusing on creating heart, lung, and kidney clinics that can compete with Metro Manila’s National specialist clinics in terms of capabilities.

“The criteria for the establishment of specialty centers are also provided, such as evidence of the health needs and demands in the catchment population, geographic or physical access to the hospital, the role of the DOH hospital as a referral for healthcare provider networks, the availability of competent health human resources for specialized healthcare; and operational and financial performance of the DOH hospital,” Go said.

He claimed that the DOH must also work with the Department of Budget and Management to define specialty centers’ staffing patterns and requirements and include capital outlay investments for selected specialty centers through the Health Facilities Enhancement Program.

“The 2023 budget has an initial budget of more than PHP8.6 billion. And Mr. President, we intend to maintain its funding through this law,” Go stated.

Marcos stated last month that the government has already begun designing potential locations for specialty hospitals.

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