SENATE Majority Floor Leader Joel Villanueva expressed his concern over the lack of healthcare professionals in the country especially in rural areas during the Senate Committee on Finance hearing on the proposed P301 billion 2023 budget of the Department of Health (DOH) and its attached agencies and corporations.
Villanueva revealed that the National Capital Region has the highest number of doctors with 7.62 percent, MIMAROPA (Marinduque, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, and Romblon) with 1.28 percent, SOCSARGEN (Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat) with 1.38 percent, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) comprised of Basilan, except Isabela City, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi with 0.74 percent doctors.
Villanueva asked DOH officials if the healthcare professional ratio of 44.5 per 10,000 population has improved since the Doktor para sa Bayan Law was enacted into law.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended 14.3 physicians per 10,000 population, 27 nurses per 10,000, and 2.8 midwives per population to improve the quality of healthcare in the country.
Health Undersecretary Kenneth Ronquillo said the current ratio is 3.7 doctors per 10,000 population and 5.2 midwives to 10,000 population.
“When we are deliberating the measures, I remember that there were 218 towns, nationwide that have zero doctors, which is very alarming when you look at our health care system. That is why we were vulnerable during the pandemic,” Villanueva explained.
It was revealed by the DOH that they were able to fill up at least 192 hospitals with physicians nationwide and only 26 municipalities remain without doctors.
Senator Christopher Bong Go for his part urged the DOH to establish and implement the so-called “super health center” in key strategic areas to augment municipalities’ rural health hospitals that are lacking in vital medical equipment and facilities.
“I want to underscore the importance of the 2023 budget of the DOJ in our path towards recovery. As I have said many times in the past, now is the time to invest more in improving our healthcare system. We must ensure that we strengthen our healthcare system as we gradually transition to a new normal,” Go said during the hearing.
Go expressed strong support for the P301 billion 2023 proposed budget for the DOH insisting that this is important for the department to function well in the present challenges.
For Senator Jose Jinggoy Estrada, the establishment of more specialty centers all over the country under the supervision of DOH will help many Filipinos saying this is a welcome development if things will materialize.
Estrada said Congress will highly likely give their full support if this will materialize in full force.
DOH Maria Rosario Vergeire said the agency has existing 16 specialty centers in strategic areas throughout the country but the plan is to put more centers in all regions which would require an additional budget of P2.23 billion.