Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Tuesday, Sept. 7 underscored the importance of the country’s healthcare capacity in managing the pandemic as he pushed for measures that would further upgrade health facilities to strengthen the country’s healthcare system.
In his opening statement during the Senate Committee on Health hearing over which he presided on Monday, September 6, Go said that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of the Philippines’ health capacity, noting that the government should learn from this experience and focus its support on health.
During the hearing Go presided, 25 bills were tackled in the committee level. Among these were the establishment of five hospitals, upgrading of 12 local hospitals and renationalization of 8 hospitals. The Committee also tackled bills on the regulation of traditional and alternative healthcare system.
“Sa totoo lang po, kaya tayo nahihirapan ngayon dahil sa kulang ang naging investment natin sa health kahit noon pa (In reality, we are in a difficult situation now because we lack in investment in health even before). Ngayon po tayo nagkakandarapa, ngayon tayo gumagawa ng modular hospital (We are now struggling to make modular hospitals),” he explained.
“Kaya buo po ang aming suporta ni Pangulong Duterte sa Department of Health at sa lahat ng mga empleyado nito (President Duterte and me fully support the Department of Health and all its employees).Gusto ko lang ipaalala na bukod sa pagsiguro na mapangalagaan ang kalusugan ng ating mga kababayan, parte na rin po ng mandato ninyo ang pagsiguro na wala ni isang iregularidad sa mga hakbang na ating ginagawa (I just want to remind that apart from ensuring the health of our countrymen are being taken cared of , it is also part of your mandate to ensure that there is no irregularity in what you are doing). Naniniwala naman ako na buhay at kapakanan ng bawat Pilipino ang inuuna ninyo sa inyong trabaho (I believe that you have always prioritized the lives and welfare of every Filipino),” he added.
Go also advocated for the continuous provision of Special Risk Allowance (SRA) and other benefits and allowances to medical frontliners.
“Hindi po naisama sa 2022 National Expenditure Program ang pondo para sa allowances ng public and private healthcare workers. Ayon sa DOH, i-aapela nila ito sa Kongreso para mabigyan ng pondo (The fund for allowances of public and private healthcare workers was not included in the 2022 National Expenditure Program. According to the DOH, they will appeal to Congress to provide fund for this),” said Go.
“Ako naman po, susuportahan ko po ito at ipaglalaban ko po na maisama ito sa budget pagdating ng deliberasyon dito sa Senado (I will support and fight for this when it reaches the Senate for deliberation). Dapat lamang na mabigyan ng kaukulang pagkilala ang sakripisyo ng healthcare workers. Hindi po sila dapat ma-low morale dahil sila ang frontliners sa giyerang ito The sacrifice of the healthcare workers deserves appropriate recognition. They are in the frontlines in this battle),” he pointed out.
The Senator added that the virus continues to put health workers’ lives in danger and that it is only right that they receive risk allowance from the government.
Apart from ensuring the well-being of frontliners, it is also imperative that the government endeavors to upgrade the country’s current health facilities and establish even more health facilities especially in rural areas, according to the Senator.
He further noted that most of the hospitals have reached critical risk in healthcare utilization.
Go also cited his experiences when personally visiting public hospitals, noting that due to the limited bed capacity of some of these hospitals, poor patients are forced to stay in corridors and hallways.
Overcrowding in hospitals, according to Go, has slowed patients’ recuperation. This, he said, motivates him to work for local hospital measures that would upgrade and improve services.
With that being said, Go emphasized that the funding for the upgrade of these hospitals should be in line with the Mandanas ruling of the Supreme Court and its implications on the tax allocation for both the national government and the local government units.
He added that the national government and local government units must work together to provide the much-needed health services.
He stressed that he will see to it that there is enough funds to upgrade hospitals.
The Committee will await the submissions of requirements imposed by the DOH such as an approved LGU resolution for the local bills and the assessment of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)’s and/or Committee on Devolution for the bills on renationalization of hospitals.
The Committee also asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to submit the possible funding source for these hospitals.