Joel Villanueva

Medical scholarships to get P2.6B boost

November 14, 2021 Marlon Purification 92 views

FUNDING for medical scholarships will be boosted to about P2.6 billion in 2022, as the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act, which aims to produce thousands of physicians, goes on full blast, the law’s principal sponsor, Senator Joel Villanueva, said Sunday.

Villanueva said the P2.6 billion will be distributed to state universities offering M.D. program, the Department of Health (DOH), and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

A total of 16 state universities will share about P1.3 billion either to expand the program or as support in their application to offer M.D. program.

The Doktor Para sa Bayan Act, or Republic Act No. 11509, aims to produce more physicians by offering more scholarship opportunities to students. Scholars receive free tuition and allowances, including costs of undergoing review for the licensure exams.

The law provides for a return service mechanism where the scholar “shall be integrated into the public health and medical service system and shall receive the appropriate civil service rank, salary and related benefits. The scholar shall serve in a government public health office, government hospital, or any accredited government health facility … for at least one year for every scholarship year availed of.”

The current ratio of doctors-to-population is about 3 doctors for every 10,000 population, while the objective is to increase the ratio to 10:10,000 to match the standards set by the World Health Organization.

“Kailangan po ng 12,165 medicine graduates kada taon para marating ang 10:10,000 sa taong 2030. Sa kasalukuyan, mayroon pong 7 rehiyon sa bansa ang walang SUC na nagooffer ng med school, at maraming munisipalidad ang walang doktor,” Villanueva said.

Among the SUCs that will receive a funds to set up a college of medicine are Cavite State University, Batangas State University, and Isabela State University in Luzon while University of Southern Mindanao and Mindanao State University – General Santos will be given funds to setup their college of medicine in Mindanao.

“We have specifically earmarked the amounts that these SUCs can use to jumpstart their M.D. program,” Villanueva said.

Other SUCs that run established physician education programs, such as the University of the Philippines-Manila and West Visayas State University in Iloilo, as well as the Mariano Marcos State University in Ilocos Norte, have also been appropriated funds for “program expansion,” Villanueva explained.

The three newly-established medicine programs at Cebu Normal University, Western Mindanao State University and the University of Southeastern Philippines also received additional funding for next year, according to the lawmaker.

Because it runs its own medical scholarship program, DOH will get P374 million next year to pay for tuition and allowances of scholars enrolled in private and public medical schools.

For its part, CHED’s three programs in support of the state medical scholarship program is poised to receive almost a P1 billion next year.

According to the Senate version of the 2022 national budget, CHED will get P500 million for its “medical scholarship and return service program,” P167 million in financial subsidy to medical students, and P250 million as “seed fund” for SUCs that will be offering medical programs.

Villanueva said the COVID pandemic provided the “rationale and impetus to seriously invest in training future doctors.”

“Our growing population, especially the large ageing sector, compels us to produce physicians in enough numbers,” he said.