Deserving of quality life

One of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s priorities was to build specialty hospitals in the provinces and we are grateful that he followed through on this.

When a single tick of the clock may spell the difference between life and death, having to travel for hours on end just to reach the nearest health facility that can provide adequate medical services makes the whole ordeal not only daunting but even fatal. Worse, the corresponding exorbitant medical fees are no less harrowing.

Unfortunately, this is the plight of many of our fellow Filipinos who live in far-flung areas and are financially strapped. We have personally seen and heard stories of our kababayans who have become debt-ridden due to hospital fees and also those who have never even reached the hospital to get urgent treatment because such health facilities are simply too far away from their community.

This glaring need to improve affordable healthcare access to more Filipinos, especially those who have no one else to rely on but the government, is what impels us to keep pushing for various initiatives such as the establishment of more Malasakit Centers, Super Health Centers, and specialty centers across the country.

The Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop that brings together several agencies, including the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to make it more convenient and faster to seek medical assistance from various agencies of the government.

We had fervently pushed for the Malasakit Centers program because we know how difficult it was for the families of our poor and indigent patients to queue day after day in different government offices just to seek medical assistance. The program was institutionalized in 2019 pursuant to the Malasakit Centers Act, which I principally authored and sponsored.

Since the first Malasakit Center was opened in 2018, there are now 156 such centers nationwide that have assisted more than seven million Filipinos in the past five years, according to DoH. Last 16 March, I was able to visit the Romblon Provincial Hospital in Odiongan to monitor the Malasakit Center there and provide assistance to the indigent patients and frontliners.

Meanwhile, to bring public health services closer to our kababayans, especially those in remote areas, we have also been advocating for the establishment of more Super Health Centers. The Department of Health, as the lead implementing agency, identifies the strategic areas where these SHCs will be established, while we in Congress ensure sufficient funding for these centers. These centers offer a range of services that include database management, out-patient, birthing, isolation, diagnostic, pharmacy, and ambulatory surgical unit. They also offer specialized services such as eye, ear, nose and throat service, oncology centers, physical therapy and rehabilitation center, and telemedicine, which allows for remote diagnosis and treatment of patients.

Last 17 March, I was in Davao de Oro to witness the groundbreaking of the Mawab Super Health Center. The day before, I also graced the groundbreaking ceremony of the SHC in Romblon town. The Labason SHC in Zamboanga del Norte likewise broke ground last week.

Finally, we have also been pushing for the creation of more specialty centers, especially outside of Metro Manila. These centers shall offer specialized care addressing particular conditions and managing cases requiring specialized training and equipment.

One of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s priorities was to build specialty hospitals in the provinces and we are grateful that he followed through on this in his first State of the Nation Address and also included this among the health-related legislative agenda in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028.

It is my continuing advocacy to bring our government closer to the people. In line with this, I continued to personally lead a series of relief operations for our less fortunate Filipinos last week. They include 500 indigents in Mawab, Davao de Oro; another 500 in Romblon, Romblon; 500 more in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; and 759 flood victims in Davao City.

My outreach teams also aided 66 indigents in San Manuel and Ramos, and 166 in Concepcion, Tarlac; as well as 50 in South Upi, Maguindanao del Sur.

In observance of Fire Prevention Month, I continue to help fire victims recover while advocating for better fire response and prevention efforts to protect communities from harm. Let us always remain vigilant and value the life of every Filipino by remembering that things once lost may be bought again, damaged properties can be rebuilt again, money once spent can be earned again, but life once lost is lost forever.

Moreover, the Bureau of Fire Protection is currently undergoing a modernization program pursuant to Republic Act 11589, otherwise known as the BFP Modernization Act of 2021, which I primarily authored and co-sponsored. It also mandates the BFP to conduct monthly fire prevention campaigns and information drives in partnership with local communities.

Last week, I personally aided 119 fire victims in Cainta and Taytay, Rizal while my team also assisted fire-hit communities in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu; Mainit, Surigao del Norte; Datu Salibo, Maguindanao del Sur; Tacurong City and Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat; Koronadal City, Surallah, and General Santos City in South Cotabato; and in M’lang and Pikit in North Cotabato.

As the government serves as a lifeline for many of our needy, hopeless and helpless Filipinos, I hope we can all continue working together to bring public services, particularly healthcare, closer to our people and provide a safer and more comfortable life for all.

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