By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny ” Angara on Friday said there is a strong need to improve the government’s capability to meet the healthcare needs of the country’s elderly.
At the 6th annual convention of the Philippine Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Angara noted the country is facing a serious shortage of geriatricians or doctors who are specially trained to evaluate and manage the healthcare needs and treatment of older people.
The senator lamented there are only 140 available geriatric doctors for the 8 million senior citizens in the country, citing data from the Retirement and Healthcare Coalition.
“I learned that out of the 140 geriatric doctors, about half of them do not have actual clinic or hospital experience. And one of the main reasons for the lack of geriatricians is the lack of facilities where doctors can train for this particular specialty,” Angara said.
Angara said he believes the enactment into law of Senate Bill 1157 or the Medical Scholarship Program bill will address this shortage of doctors in the Philippines.
The bill proposes a medical scholarship program for aspiring doctors so that the budget for their free tuition will be assured every year.
Angara pointed out that while the state-run National Center for Geriatric Health in Manila was inaugurated in 2010 supposedly to serve as the country’s first center for aged care, its capability is limited and that is has yet to be institutionalized by Congress.
“We need more venues where our geriatricians can hone their craft,” he stressed.
The proposed scholarship program shall accept at least one beneficiary from every province in the country. However, the number of beneficiaries per province will depend on the number of medical doctors the Department of Health (DOH) will determine for each province.
As a lawmaker, Angara said he remains attentive and responsive to the needs of seniors by pushing for legislation that would promote their welfare such as the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, which grants Value Added Tax (VAT) exemption on medicines and medical supplies, medical services, and professional fees of doctors.
Angara said such advocacy for senior citizen is something he wants to continue after his father, the late Senate President Edgardo J. Angara, passed away.
“He is responsible for the Senior Citizens Act of 1992 that granted discounts to our seniors. How we treat our elders is an indication of how we treat our most vulnerable,” the younger Angara said.
“Tungkulin natin na alagaan at suportahan sila upang masiguro na sila ay may buhay na maginhawa, (It is our duty to protect and support them to ensure they live a better life,)” he added.
Angara likewise is pushing for the passage of the Expanded Social Pension bill, which seeks to not only double the amount, but also widen the scope to cover those without any form of pension.