SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go on Tuesday, June 29, joined the virtual launch of the country’s 123rd Malasakit Center held at the Bicol Region General Hospital and Geriatric Medical Center in Cabusao, Camarines Sur. The initiative is part of a broader effort by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to improve health care access for patients, especially in rural and low-income areas.
The Malasakit Center is the fifth in the Bicol region and second in Camarines Sur, in addition to that of the Bicol Medical Center in Naga City. The same was also opened at the Masbate Provincial Hospital in Masbate City the previous day, June 28.
Another Malasakit Center is set to be launched this Wednesday, June 30, in Camarines Norte Provincial Hospital in Daet, Camarines Norte, marking the 124th of its kind to be established.
“Natutuwa ako na ang mga kababayan nating Bicolano sa Cabusao at mga karatig nitong bayan ay magkakaroon na ng sarili nilang Malasakit Center. Sabihan niyo ang mga kapitbahay, kapitbarangay at kapitbayan niyo na mayro’n na kayong Malasakit Center na handang tumulong sa inyo diyan sa Camarines Sur,” Go started in his remarks.
The Senator, who is Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, spoke of his overall vision of making healthcare affordable and accessible to more Filipinos. He cited his experiences working with underserved patients and their families while serving under then mayor Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City.
His experience in Davao City and subsequent appointment as Special Assistant to the President in 2016, pushed him to open the first Malasakit Center in Cebu City two years later.
“Sa panahong nagtrabaho ako kay Pangulong Duterte, nakita kong maraming tao mula sa mga karatig na probinsya at rehiyon ang pumupunta ng Davao City para lang humingi ng tulong sa mga opisina at ahensya ng gobyerno,” continued Go.
“Sabi ko, bakit ba natin pinapahirapan ang mga pasyente kung pwede naman ilagay ang mga opisina sa isang kwarto para tapos ang proseso sa isang araw. Kaya nung naging presidente si Pangulo, pinakiusapan ko ang apat na ahensya ng gobyerno para gawing mas simple ang proseso ng paghingi ng tulong” he recounted.
To simplify and improve convenience in the process of requesting for medical related government aid, the center brings together under one roof the different national agencies from which Filipino patients may avail of medical assistance. The agencies are the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
The one-stop-stop aims to reduce the hospital bill to the lowest amount possible by covering various patient services and expenses, pursuant to Republic Act No. 11463 or the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, which Go principally authored and sponsored in the Senate.
“Masaya akong sunod-sunod ang pagbubukas ng mga centers. Tiwala akong magiging malaking tulong ito sa mga kababaayan natin in the long-run, lalung-lalo na sa mga walang matakbuhan at maaasahan kundi ang gobyerno,” said Go.
“Dito niyo makikita ang puso ni Pangulong Duterte para sa mga mahihirap. Sinimulan namin ito dahil ayaw naming pinapahirapan sila. Binabalik lang ng gobyerno ang pera at serbisyo na dapat sa inyo,” he explained.
Ending his remarks, Go extended his appreciation for the excellent work being undertaken by the members of the hospital staff and vowed to promote their welfare and best interests amid the ongoing pandemic and even beyond.
“I would also like to express my immense gratitude to the frontline health workers here who continue to risk their lives to keep our people healthy and safe, especially at this time. The entire country is grateful for your hard work and many sacrifices. Thank you for ensuring that we will overcome this pandemic and get on a path to recovery,” he said.
To further support frontliners, Go’s team distributed meals, food packs, vitamins, masks and face shields to a total of 763 frontline health workers following the ceremony. Selected recipients were given new shoes or bicycles so they can commute with relative ease while others received computer tablets for their children’s school activities.
Moreover, personnel from the DSWD also provided 496 rank-and-file employees of the hospital with financial assistance. Similar forms of financial assistance were likewise extended to 150 indigent patients.
“Nandito kami sa ospital ngayon para sa eye surgery ng husband ko. Dahil sa pandemya, wala kaming trabaho kaya helpless talaga kami. Hindi namin kaya mag-raise ng pera ng ganon kabilis. Pero dahil nandiyan na ang Malasakit (center), malaking kagaanan ito financially. Lumapit lang kami at guaranteed na na hindi kami magbabayad kahit piso. Isipin mo ‘yun?” said Josie Canete.
“Maraming, maraming salamat sa Presidente at sa nag-initiate nito, kay Senator Bong Go. Sana marami pa kayong ma-achieve at marami pa kayong matulungan,” she continued.
The Senator went on to thank the many individuals who worked hard to make the launch possible and ensure the poorest and most vulnerable in Cabusao have access to health care.
Among those present during the activity were Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, DOH Undersecretary Roger Tong-an, Assistant Secretary Girlie Veloso of the Office of President, DOH Asec. Charade Grande, Governor Miguel Villafuerte, and Medical Center Chief Dr. Edgardo Sarmiento.
To assist in the future development of the province, Go has supported the funding of various infrastructure projects in Camarines Sur. The projects include the construction of the Mabolo – Almeda Bypass Road in Naga City; the Lalud – Garchitorena Road and other missing road links; construction and improvement of San Fernando Sports Complex in San Fernando, Camarines Sur; and a revetment and improvement of the channel at the Bula and Nabua Section of the Barit River.