Senator Christopher “Bong” Go extended his warm congratulations to the people of Agusan del Sur for the successful launch of the country’s 131st Malasakit Center at the Democrito O. Plaza Memorial Hospital in the capital town of Prosperidad on Saturday, July 31.
This is the first Malasakit Center in Agusan del Sur and fifth in the Caraga region, after the Caraga Regional Hospital in Surigao City, Butuan Medical Center in Butuan City, Lianga District Hospital in Surigao del Sur and Siargao Island Medical Center in Surigao del Norte.
Another Malasakit Center was launched at the Adela Serra Ty Memorial Medical Center in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur later that day which marks 132 Malasakit Centers established nationwide.
In his remarks delivered during the ceremony, the Senator, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, underscored the need to advance the health of millions of Filipinos living in vulnerable communities.
He lamented that financial barriers, such as hospital, medicine and transportation expenses, prevent many from disadvantaged backgrounds from enjoying quality healthcare, and explained that the new center will seek to address this by making the medical assistance programs of the government more accessible to the public.
“Nung unang panahon, marami sa mga kababayan natin ang kinakailangang pang lumabas ng ospital at pumila sa iba’t ibang ahensya ng gobyerno para humingi ng tulong. Ubos na panahon nila, ubos pa ang pera nila sa pamasahe. Mangungutang at ibebenta pa niyan ang kalabaw para may maibayad sa naiwang balanse,” said Go.
”Ngayon, hindi na nila kailangang gawin ‘yan. Kung may billing kayo sa ospital, puntahan niyo lang ang Malasakit Center at tutulungan kayo nito para maging ‘zero balance’ o wala na kayong babayaran,” he continued.
The Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop pioneered by Go where poor and other financially incapacitated patients may conveniently apply for medical assistance from the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
The program was institutionalized under Republic Act No. 11463, also known as the Malasakit Centers Act, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed in December 2019. The Act, which Go authored and sponsored in the Senate, was passed with the support of various legislators such as Agusan Del Sur’s 1st District Representative Alfelito Bascug and 2nd District Rep. Adolph Edward Plaza.
The said law mandates all DOH-run hospitals and the Philippine General Hospital in the City of Manila to open their own Malasakit Centers. Hospitals run by local government units and other public hospitals may also establish their own provided they meet a standard set of criteria and guarantee the sustainability of its operations.
In his remarks, Go urged the next administration to continue the programs started by President Duterte especially those that continue to benefit indigents needing medical care.
“Ako naman, hindi ko sasayangin ang pagkakataong ito para magsilbi sa inyo. Sabi nila, taga-gawa lang ng batas ang Senador pero I will not limit myself to only being a legislator. Trabaho namin ay constituency, representation at legislation. Kaya basta kaya ng aking katawan ay pupuntahan ko kayo upang pakinggan ang inyong hinaing at reklamo,” reassured Go.
The Senator went on to thank the health workers and other frontliners for their contributions to the fight against COVID-19. To support them, he urged communities to stay vigilant against the continuing threat posed by COVID-19 by following the necessary health measures to stop it from spreading further.
“Bagama’t bakunado na ang iilan sa inyo ay ‘wag kayong maging kumpiyansa. Nandiyan ang banta ng Delta variant na four times more contagious sa original na variant. Tingnan niyo ang nangyari sa Manila. Kawawa ang mga kababayan natin na ‘isang kahig, isang tuka’, ‘yung kailangan magtrabaho araw-araw,” warned Go.
”Kailangan namin ni Presidente ang tulong ninyo. Hindi namin kaya ito mag-isa. Kailangan namin ang kooperasyon at disiplina ng bawat Pilipino para malampasan natin ang krisis na ito,” he ended.
After the ceremony, Go’s staff provided meals, food packs, vitamins, masks and face shields to a total of 292 frontliners and 126 patients. Selected frontliners received pairs of shoes while some were provided bicycles for their commuting needs. Others were also given computer tablets for their children’s education or tupper packs.
The DSWD additionally handed out financial assistance to patients in need and 213 rank-and-file hospital employees, including janitors and security guards, in a separate distribution.
The ceremony was attended by Assistant Secretary Girlie Veloso of the Office of the President, DSWD Regional Director Ramel Jamen, 1st District Rep. Bascug, Governor Santiago Cane Jr., Vice Governor Samuel Tortor, Board Member Edwin Demegillo, Provincial Liga ng mga Barangay President Glen Plaza, Provincial Indigenous People Mandatory Representative Pablo Plaza, Mayor Frederick Mellana, and Acting Hospital Chief Dr. Maria Virgina Abacajen.
Other guests included Bayugan City Mayor Kirk Asis, Bunawan Mayor Sylvia Elorde, Esperanza Mayor Leonida Manpatilan, La Paz Mayor Michael Lim, San Luis Mayor Phoebe Corvera, San Francisco Mayor Solomon Rufila, Sta. Josefa Mayor Symond Caguiat, Talacogon Mayor Pauline Marie Masendo, Trento Mayor Willam Calvez, Rosario Mayor Jupiter Abulog, and Veruela Mayor Myrna Mondejar.
As Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Go has supported numerous infrastructure projects to help boost development and economic opportunities in Agusan del Sur. Among these include the construction of local roads, multi-purpose buildings, and evacuation centers, among others, across the province.
Other projects include the construction of a new public market and slaughterhouse in Bunawan; development of the Sibagat public park; and acquisition of ambulances for the local governments of La Paz and San Luis; and acquisition of dump trucks for the local governments of San Francisco and San Luis.