PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. approved on Thursday last week Republic Act (RA) No. 11959, or the “Regional Specialty Centers Act” as part of the administration’s efforts to establish and institutionalize healthcare centers in the region, ensuring accessible and affordable healthcare services for all.
The law will take effect 15 days from its publication in the Official Gazette, or in a newspaper of general circulation. It is a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 2212 and House Bill No. 7751, which was subjected to a bicameral conference committee meeting whose report was adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives on May 31, 2023.
RA 11959 will be known as “An Act Establishing Specialty Centers in Department of Health Hospitals in Every Region and in Government-owned or -Controlled Corporation Specialty Hospitals and Appropriating Funds Therefor.”
Under the law, the Department of Health (DOH) is designated to establish specialty centers in its hospitals in every region and in GOCC specialty hospitals, prioritizing cancer care, cardiovascular care, lung care, renal care and kidney transplant, brain and spine care, trauma care and burn care.
The specialty centers shall also prioritize orthopedic care, physical rehabilitation medicine, infectious disease and tropical medicine, toxicology, mental health, geriatric care, neonatal care, dermatology, eye care, and ear, nose, and throat care.
The law also mandates the DOH to categorize the level of service capability of the specialty centers as National Specialty Centers (NSCs), Advanced Comprehensive Specialty Centers (ACSCs), and Basic Comprehensive Specialty Centers (BCSCs) pursuant to the Philippine Health Facility Development Plan.
It also emphasized that the establishment of specialty centers shall adhere to the guidelines set by the DOH on planning and prioritizing health facilities based on the upgrading of hospitals, evidence of the health needs and demands, and service capability of hospitals and geographic or physical access.
The appropriate level of specialized healthcare provider role in the continuum of care, the availability of competent health human resources for specialized healthcare, and the operational and financial performance of the DOH facilities should also be considered in setting up specialty centers.
Implementing rules and regulations of the law shall be promulgated by the DOH, in consultation with the NSCs, DOH hospitals and other stakeholders, within 60 days from the effectivity of the law.
Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said the enactment of the Regional Specialty Centers Act would pave the way for the establishment of “Centers of Hope” that would provide access and convenience to millions of Filipinos outside Metro Manila.
“If you build it, they will come. At naniniwala tayo na malaking kaginhawaan ang maidudulot ng mga specialty centers na ito kapag ilalapit natin siya sa ating mga mamamayan na nasa labas ng Metro Manila,” Zubiri said.
The creation of specialty centers in local hospital across the country which is under the supervision of the Department of Health were unanimously approved by 24 senators and was considered a priority measure of the Marcos administration.
House Committee on Health chair Batanes Rep. Ciriaco Gato Jr. thanked President Marcos Jr. for signing into law the Regional Specialty Centers Act.
“The passage of the Act establishing specialty centers in DOH hospitals in the country is a testament to our commitment to providing specialized, top-tier healthcare to every individual. Our gratitude to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for recognizing the importance of this legislation,” Gato said.
Gato, one of the principal authors of the bill, said he is particularly elated with the inclusion of Ear, Nose, and Throat centers in the law.
“We fought tooth and nail for the inclusion of ENT centers in this act. As an ENT surgeon, I have seen how a simple ear infection resulting from minor issues can escalate into something serious due to lack of accessible specialized care,” the solon said. PCO, Jester Manalastas, Camille P. Balagtas