SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go reaffirmed his commitment to advocate for improved access to health care for the poor and underserved during the launch of the country’s 149th Malasakit Center at the San Lorenzo Ruiz General Hospital in Malabon City on Tuesday, November 16.
This is the 31st Malasakit Center in Metro Manila and the second in the city, after the Ospital ng Malabon opened its own in December 2019.
“Noong naging senador ako, isa ito sa mga una kong isinulong sa senado. Sila Congresswoman (Josephine Lacson-Noel) ang iilan sa mga nakipaglaban nito sa Lower House. Tinulungan nila tayo upang maging batas itong Malasakit Centers program,” said Go.
In a speech he gave at the launch, the senator explained that the center aims to lower hospital bills for patients by covering various services and expenses, pursuant to the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, which he principally authored and sponsored in the Senate.
Malasakit Centers improve the process for requesting medical assistance by bringing all relevant government agencies, namely the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, under one roof.
“Ang target nito ay zero balance. Halimbawa, may bill kayo sa ospital. Ilapit niyo lang ito sa apat na ahensya. Kung may naiwang balanse, pwede pong kunin ang pangdagdag sa pondong iniwan ni Pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte para maging zero balance ang inyong billing,” explained Go.
“Kaya kung may pasyente kayo, ilapit niyo siya sa Malasakit Center. Ano ho bang kwalipikasyon nito? Basta Pilipino ka, qualified ka. Kapag hindi ka tutulungan ng Malasakit Center pagalitan mo. Sabihin mo, ‘Hoy! Pilipino ako, karapatan ko ‘yan’,” he continued.
The program was originally launched in 2018 and has since been adopted in 83 hospitals in Luzon, 29 in Visayas and 37 in Mindanao. It has since aided over three million poor and indigent patients, in keeping with the Duterte Administration’s commitment to improving access to health care services.
The senator continued his speech reminding the hospital not to refuse treatment to patients due to their financial situation. He assured them the government’s assistance and support for that purpose, which it had previously demonstrated by providing for the funds for the construction of a new annex to expand the hospital’s bed capacity.
“Dapat walang pinipiling pasyente ang Malasakit Center. Doc, unahin niyo ang mga mahihirap at ‘wag niyo silang pabayaan. Iyon lang ang pakiusap ko sa inyo. Hindi naman kailangan ng mga mayayaman ang ospital na ito dahil doon sila sa mga pampribado,” pointed out Go.
“Full support kami ni Pangulong Duterte sa inyo. Kung anong kailangan ninyo, tutulong kami. Ako naman, saan man ako padparin ng tadhana, tutulong ako sa inyo. Hindi ako titigil sa pagseserbisyo sa inyong lahat,” he pledged.
The senator also vowed to ensure that their health care workers are properly paid and protected by pushing for the enactment of Senate Bill No. 2421. The bill, which takes into consideration a bill he authored, provides a COVID-19 Risk Allowance in lieu of the special risk allowance and other financial benefits granted under the Bayanihan 2.
It specifically aims to give HCWs in “low risk areas” a monthly allowance of P3,000, those in “medium risk areas” P6,000 and those in “high risk areas” P9,000.
In line with this, Go further revealed that his recent discussions with the President covered the proposal to offer cash incentives to fully-vaccinated members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program as a means of increasing COVID-19 vaccination uptake among the poorest of the poor.
“Alam niyo, 84 percent ng mga 4Ps beneficiaries ay takot pa sa bakuna. Kailangang paigtingin pa natin ang pagpa-intindi sa kanila. Hindi ako sang-ayon sa ‘no bakuna, no ayuda’ kaya baliktarin natin. Nakapag-suggest na ako kay Pangulong Duterte na bigyan ng 500 pesos cash incentive ang lahat ng beneficiaries para maengganyo sila,” shared Go.
To help keep the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on a downward trend, he appealed to the public, vaccinated or otherwise, to keep wearing their masks and abiding by the health protocols. He warned that vaccinated people still have a small chance of spreading the virus and should remain cautious with who they come in contact with.
“Pinaalala namin ni Pangulong Duterte sa lahat na magsuot pa din ng mask. Tingnan niyo sa (sa Europa), tumigil sila sa pagsuot kay tumaas na naman ‘yung kaso nila. Sila na naman ‘yung epicenter ng pandemya. Kaya importante ng mag-mask. Hindi natin alam ‘yung nasa tabi natin ay hindi pa pala bakunado,” cautioned Go, before urging all remaining holdouts to get their vaccine shots.
“Nasa datos naman na ‘pag bakunado kayo, mas maiiwasan ‘yung pagka-grabe na sakit o pagkamatay dahil sa COVID-19. More than 90 percent na ang bakunado sa Maynila kaya unti-unti nang bumababa ang kaso dito. Wala na tayong ibang solusyon so magpabakuna na kayo at libre naman ito,” he appealed.
After the ceremony, the senator and his staff handed out meals, food packs, vitamins and masks to a total of 324 frontline HCWs and 26 indigent patients. They provided selected frontliners new pairs of shoes and bicycles. Some also received computer tablets which their children can use for their school activities.
In addition, personnel from the DSWD distributed financial assistance to each patient and 164 rank-and-file hospital employees, including the custodian and security personnel.
“Pumunta kami dito para nabigyan kami ng wheelchair. Outpatient kasi ang lola ko na galing sa stroke. Dahil gastusin, nagtutulungan ang pamilya namin, ‘yung tito at tita ko. Lahat ng income ginugugol namin para kay lola, pati pension niya,” shared Karen Marta, 25.
“Ngayon ko lang nalaman ‘yung Malasakit Center. Sobrang laking tulong ito sa lahat, lalo na sa mga mahirap. Kay Senator Bong Go, maraming salamat sa proyektong ito, sa malasakit ninyo sa amin. Salamat din kay Pangulong Duterte para sa lahat ng naitulong niya sa ating bansa at sa taong bayan,” she added.
In the end, the senator expressed his gratitude to the individuals who worked together to improve the quality of care and health care access for the people of Malabon. They include Presidential Assistant to the Visayas Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino, Office of the President Assistant Secretary Girlie Veloso, Representative Lacson-Noel, Navotas City Rep. John Tiangco and An Waray Party List Rep. Florencio Noel.
He also thanked Mayor Antolin Oreta III, Vice Mayor Bernard Dela Cruz, Chief of Hospital Dr. Marilou Nery, former representative Sandoval II, former vice mayor Jeannie Sandoval and Mr. Willie Revillame who joined the activity.