THE Department of Health (DoH) and stakeholders in the health sector are calling on Congress to expedite the passage of Senate Bill 2717 creating a scholarship program for doctors of medicine to boost the country’s overall healthcare system.
The proposal, authored by Sen. Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara, seeks to provide scholarships for at least one deserving student in every province of the country at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM).
In his introduction to the bill, Angara noted that available data disclosed that 80 percent of UPCM graduates leave the country to practice medicine abroad, a trend that has started more than 10 years ago.
“The effect is evident in the lack of medical doctors to serve our underprivileged countrymen,” said Angara.
The exodus abroad of Filipino doctors has become problematic considering that Philippine medical schools are only producing some 2,600 each year, according to Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rossel-Ubial.
If passed into law, the measure would require graduates of the program to work in provincial hospitals for five years.
Last August, Ubial was instructed by President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the communist nation of Cuba to study its health care system, which is one of the best in the world.
Ubial reported that Cuba has a ratio of one doctor for every 1,075 patients––a far cry from the Philippines, which has a ratio of one doctor for every 33,000 persons.
The DoH chief opined that the “prohibitive cost” of medical school and the length of years in school required —10 years—have discouraged many Filipinos from becoming doctors.
To help remedy the situation, Medgate Philippines, a leading medical group engaged in “telemedicine” using the Internet and electronic telecommunications, has offered its services and techonology in reaching out to the most number of Filipinos regarding their health.
Medgate Philippines Chief Executive Officer Robert Parker says that these programs “are a good long-term solution to the dearth of doctors in the Philippines.”
“Given the urgency of the problem, we have to look at viable, immediate alternatives to mitigate the impact of doctor shortages, especially in rural areas where doctors are scarce,” Parker stressed.
Parker claimed Medgate is the leading international provider of telemedicine, with operations in Switzerland, the Middle East, Australia, and the Philippines.
“What telemedicine does is give everyone who has a cellular phone access to a doctor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So when you’re sick, you can consult a doctor anytime, anywhere,” the official said.