To ensure equitable healthcare access for underserved communities, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has called on the Department of Health (DOH) to address the need to improve access to health services and personnel in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs).
Go, chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, emphasized that GIDAs, such as Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea, should not be overlooked or neglected when it comes to the deployment of healthcare personnel. He likewise added that such areas require additional attention and support to ensure that the health needs of their communities are properly addressed.
In an ambush interview after his visit to Sta. Cruz, Manila on May 24, Go urged DOH to prioritize GIDAs, emphasizing that every Filipino deserves equal access to quality healthcare, regardless of their location.
“Ako po ay nakikiusap, mayroon namang kaukulang budget ang Department of Health under its Human Resources for Health Development. Nabalitaan ko nga ang kakulangan po doon ng mga health workers, dapat kasama ‘yan sa kanilang prayoridad, ang Pag-asa Island. Dahil mayroon din pong mga kababayan nating nakatira doon at hindi na nila kailangan pang magbiyahe ng napakalayo. It will take them about a day to travel para lang po makapagpagamot,” Go cited.
“Nakausap ko naman ang DOH at nilinaw nila na kanilang agarang pag-aaralan ang profile ng Pag-asa Island at sisiguruhing lahat ng eligible municipalities will be prioritized in the deployment of the next batch of health care workers,” he added.
Acknowledging that GIDAs, which include remote rural areas and islands with limited infrastructure and resources, often struggle to attract and retain skilled healthcare professionals, Go expressed his worry that the lack of medical personnel in these areas significantly hampers the delivery of quality healthcare services, leaving many residents without access to essential medical care.
It is for this reason that the senator highlighted Republic Act No. 11223 or the “Universal Health Care Act”, which aims to provide all Filipinos with equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare services, irrespective of their socio-economic status.
“Dapat gawan po ng paraan ng DOH na makapagdeploy po ng necessary health personnel sa Pag-asa Island. I also urged the Department of Health to send essential medicines doon po sa Pag-asa Island para po ready po ang gamot,” Go asserted.
“Nasa ilalim naman po ng Universal Health Care Act, may mandato po ang gobyerno to guarantee that the distribution of health services and benefits shall be equitable. Ibig sabihin, pantay-pantay by prioritizing geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas in the provision of assistance and support,” he cited.
The law also mandates the efficient delivery of coordinated and continuous health care from primary to tertiary level with linkages to an apex or end-referral hospital and other facilities providing specialized services needed by its catchment population.
Consistent with the provisions of the Universal Health Care Act in relation to increases in premium rates and benefits, Go has successfully pushed for a special provision under the PhilHealth 2023 budget indicating the use of the P21-billion budget pertaining to benefit package improvement under the Act.
He proposed that this budget should be used for the expansion of free dialysis coverage, mental health outpatient coverage, the implementation of the comprehensive outpatient benefit package, including free medical check-up and other increases in benefit packages.
“Isinusulong ko rin po ang free medical check-up para sa ating mga kababayan. Parte ito ng Universal Health Care. Mahalaga ang early detection para hindi na lumala ang sakit. Ang problema, marami sa ating mga kababayan ang takot o walang budget para sa check-up. Sa Konsulta program, sagot ng PhilHealth ang pagpapa-check-up o lab test sa ating mga Philhealth-accredited health facility, dapat na itong ma-implementa ng buo at maayos,” he previously cited.