SENATE minority leader Ralph Recto has sought the passage of his proposed “One Town, One Doctor” bill to address the lack of physicians in the provinces.
He said the country’s public health system is grappling with a shortage of 60,000 doctors.
“As result, six out of 10 Filipinos die without seeing a doctor,” Recto said.
He proposes “a novel scholarship program in which government will fund the schooling of one medical student chosen from among the youth of a town -- on the condition that when he becomes a doctor, he will go back to his town to serve for four years.”
“If we’re facing a lack of rural doctors, this is one way to guarantee supply. This is an education and a health program rolled into one. We tap local human talent in training a professional who will perform health service among his people,” Recto added.
“In short, this is a ‘galing sa bayan, tungo sa bayan’ scheme of producing doctors. We pick from among the town’s best and brightest, finance his medical studies, and when he becomes a doctor, he repays it by serving his townmates,” the senator stressed.
And while the doctor is doing his mandatory four-year community service, another bright young student from the same town starts medical schooling so that there will be a replacement after four or five years, he said.
“This is one investment with a high social ROI (return of investment). If we can afford to spend P2.4 million to produce one Philippine Military Academy graduate, why scrimp in producing doctors who are badly needed?” said Recto.
The scholarship program, to be administered by the Department of Health, will cover “tuition, laboratory and miscellaneous fees, and other related school fees; textbooks, supplies and equipment; clothing and uniform allowances; traveling expenses and subsistence and living allowance.”
The bill provides that the scholar must belong to the “upper 30 percent” of a graduating class of any of the undergraduate prerequisite courses for a doctoral degree in medicine.
The candidate must have passed the admission tests and related requirements of the medical school that the scholar plans to enroll in.
If none from a town qualifies for the program, the allotted slot may be assumed by a scholar coming from another town in the same province.
“The scholar, however, upon getting his license to practice will serve in the town which provided the slot,” said Recto.
According to Recto, the One Town, One Doctor program can be financed by state gaming income, from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corporation.
The PCSO recorded a gross income of P37.4 billion in 2015, while on the first half of this year PAGCOR had already raked in a gross revenue of P24.8 billion, of which P15.6 billion went to state coffers.