SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go underlined the importance of the public health sector’s preparedness for future health crises during a personal visit at the Quirino Memorial Medical Center (QMMC) in Quezon City on Wednesday, March 23.
Go also hailed the Duterte Administration’s continuing efforts to reinforce the country’s healthcare system as he witnessed the turnover of financial assistance, amounting to PhP100 million each, from the Office of the President to the QMMC and other hospitals.
The beneficiary hospitals include the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC), Philippine Heart Center (PHC) and Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City; Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital (DJFMH) and Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMMC) in Manila City; Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium (DJNRMHS) in Caloocan City; and Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center (ARMMC) in Marikina City. The VMMC received an additional PhP100 million for the acquisition of new medical equipment.
In a speech delivered during his visit, the senator highlighted the challenges confronting public hospitals, such as the lack of infrastructure and adequate manpower. He discussed the need for continuous government efforts to enhance capabilities and capacities of health facilities nationwide in order to improve access to healthcare particularly in the grassroots.
“Wala pang pandemya, bumibisita na ako sa mga ospital at nakikita kong may naghahating mga pasyente sa iisang kama. Paano sila gagaling, lalo na ngayong may pandemya, kung ganyan ang sitwasyon? We should invest more sa ating healthcare system. Huwag tayong mag-antay ng susunod na pandemya. Dapat pro-active at laging handa tayo,” stressed Go.
“Kaya bilang Committee Chair on Health sa Senado, hindi ako titigil na ipaglaban kayo kahit talo ako sa debate basta alam ko ang makikinabang ay ang mga mahihirap,” he added.
Go, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, has sponsored 39 local hospital bills so far. The bills, which have been enacted or are due to be enacted, include measures to upgrade the capabilities, expand the bed capacities and establish new hospitals in various provinces nationwide.
In 2020, Go sponsored the bill that became Republic Act No. 11501 which increased the bed capacity of the QMMC from 500 to 1,000 beds.
Go also recognized the need to boost support for health workers who are risking their lives to contain the pandemic. He earlier pushed for the passage of Senate Bill No. 2421, providing a fixed monthly COVID-19 Risk Allowance to all frontliners assigned in health facilities for the duration of the ongoing state of emergency. The Senate approved the bill on the third and final reading last January.
Moreover, Go also pushed for the allocation of a total of PhP51 billion in the 2022 national budget for the compensation of all COVID-19 health workers.
“Full support kami ni Pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte sa inyo dito. Isa lang ang pakiusap ko, ‘wag niyo pong pabayaan ang mga mahihirap na pasyente. Sabi ko nga hindi naman pumupunta ang mga mayayaman sa mga pampublikong ospital. Unahin nating asikasuhin ang mga mahihirap at walang matakbuhan,” appealed Go.
On this note, the senator reiterated the importance of following health protocols even as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to drop in the country. He praised the public’s continued cooperation and called for greater vaccination efforts to finally put an end to the pandemic.
“Nasa gitna pa po tayo ng pandemya. Napatunayan naman natin na ang ‘pag suot ng mask ay nakakatulong para ma-contain natin ang pagtaas ng mga kaso. Unti-unti ng bumababa ang alert level sa bansa dahil sa kooperasyon at disiplina ng bawat Pilipino,” encouraged Go.
“Importante din na bakunado tayo para maiwasan natin ‘yung grabeng sintomas o pagkakamatay. Nakakatulong ito sa mga doktor at frontliners dahil habang bumababa ang mga severe na kaso ay hindi sila mahihirapan. Isipin natin ang sakripisyo nila sa panahong ito,” he added.
Prior to his speech, Go conducted a monitoring visit to the Malasakit Center at the QMMC to check the status of its operations. The center was launched last September with his support as the principal author and sponsor of the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019.
The Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop which houses the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. The center offers a streamlined process so patients can conveniently avail of medical assistance for their hospital bills.
To show his solidarity with the frontliners, Go and his staff also provided meals, food packs, vitamins and masks to 2,011 health workers and 417 indigent patients during the visit. In addition, they gave select health workers bicycles or new pairs of shoes as well as computer tablets to aid their children in their studies.
Meanwhile, personnel from DSWD separately distributed financial assistance to indigent patients and 898 rank-and-file employees.
“Dinadala namin ‘yung anak ko dito. May cancer siya sa liver at wala kaming pera pang private. Pumanaw siya kanina. Masakit man pero kailangang tanggapin. Personal akong nagpapasalamat kay Senator Bong Go dahil sa mga programa niya gaya ng Malasakit Center. Dahil dito wala kaming binayaran sa medical bills ng anak ako. Ito ang inaasahan ng mga kababayan namin mula sa Mindanao na nagpapagamot dito sa Maynila,” Abundia Soria shared in an interview.
The senator concluded his remarks by thanking various officials for their valuable contributions in the pandemic response, including 3rd District Representative Allan Reyes, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino, DOH Undersecretary Charade Mercado-Grande, DOH Usec. Elmer Punzalan, DOH Usec. Roger Tong-an, and DOH Director Girlie Veloso.
He also expressed gratitude to QMMC Medical Chief Dr. Ivy Reside, PHC Medical Chief Dr. Joel Abanilla, DJFMH Medical Chief Dr. Imelda Mateo, JRRMC Medical Chief Dr. Emmanuel Montaña, Jr., DJNRMHS Medical Chief Dr. Alfonso Famaran, Jr., ARMMC Medical Chief Dr. Esmeraldo Ilem, VMMC Assistant Director Dr. Franklin Gali, and PCMC Officer-in-Charge Executive Director Dr. Sonia Gonzalez.
On Monday, March 21, Go conducted a monitoring visit at the East Avenue Medical Center where he witnessed the turnover of PhP635-million worth of financial assistance from the Office of the President for various hospitals. His team also distributed aid to nearly 4,000 health workers and patients.