Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go was sentimental as he joined local executives and hospital administration and staff in the opening of the 44th Malasakit Center on Wednesday, October 9, at JR Borja Memorial Hospital in Cagayan de Oro City.

“It feels just like yesterday when the very first Malasakit Center opened in the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City in February 2018, when I was still Special Assistant to the President,” the senator shared.

The Malasakit Center at JR Borja Memorial Hospital is the second center in the city and the 13th in Mindanao.

Go, who also just came from another opening of the Malasakit Center in Iligan City, shared his reason and motivation in making this program a reality more than a year ago.

The senator, who is pushing for the institutionalization of the Malasakit Center through the Malasakit Center Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 1076), said that the Malasakit Center started because of the experiences they encountered with then mayor and now, President Rodrigo Duterte, in Davao City.

“Nag-ugat ang proyektong ito sa karanasan namin ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte noong mayor pa siya ng Davao City. Halos araw-araw, may humihingi sa amin ng tulong upang maipagamot ang kanilang kapamilyang maysakit,” Go said.

He explained that the condition of poor and indigent Filipinos lining up at the offices of local officials so they could ask assistance must be addressed. Processing of applications is usually slow and the assisting agencies are often scattered in separate locations. Go explained that from this situation came the need to establish the Malasakit Center which puts representatives of concerned agencies under one roof and expedites the process of giving medical assistance.

“Nakakaawa po ang mga kababayan natin, lalo na’t pera naman nila ang ginagastos ng gobyerno. Dapat lang na maibalik sa kanila ito,” Go lamented. “Kaya nang maging Pangulo si Mayor, itong Malasakit Center ang iminungkahi ko sa kaniya bilang prayoridad. Dito sa Malasakit Center, isang pila na lang ang gagawin ng mga pasyente o representative nila, at isang form na lang din ang kailangang i-fill out.”

Representatives of the different agencies, such as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) are present in each Malasakit Center, making it more convenient for Filipinos to access medical assistance from the government. PhilHealth representatives are also present to assist patients in their concerns regarding billing and health benefit packages.

Moreover, the senator also assured that more Malasakit Centers will be opened soon and that the government “have so much more to do to provide Filipinos, especially the poor, the medical care and financial assistance that they need.”

As the chair on the Senate Committee on Health, the Malasakit Center Act of 2019 which Go filed, has already received support from fellow senators. Even President Duterte himself has also showed his support to the program by citing it in his recent State of the Nation Address.

“As the people’s voice now in the Senate, I am making sure that this program will continue regardless of who will be seated in Malacañang. I sponsored and defended a Senate bill institutionalizing Malasakit Centers to complement the Universal Health Care Act,” Go said.

The senator explained further that a Malasakit Center only houses the representatives of different concerned government agencies and the funding allocated for medical assistance will still be processed and assessed by each agency, not the Malasakit Center itself. 

“Kung magbibigay ng tulong ang PhilHealth, kanilang pera ‘yan, sila ang bahala. Gaya na rin sa ibang ahensya, sila ang bahala sa perang ibibigay nila at hindi makikialam ang Malasakit Center kung magkano ang kanilang ibibigay na tulong,” Go explained. 

Go added that concerns regarding funding for the proposed Malasakit Center Act of 2019 have already been clarified during the Senate deliberations and a counterpart bill in the House of Representatives has also already passed the committee level.

“Basta importante, di na kailangan lumabas ang pasyente dito (sa ospital) para manghingi ng tulong. Maawa tayo sa mga pasyente. ‘Yan ang purpose ng Malasakit Center. Tulungan natin ang ating mga pasyente, tayo ang pumunta sa kanila dahil unang-una gobyerno tayo, tayo ang dapat na lalapit. Pera nila ito, binabalik lang sa kanila,” the senator said.

In light with the congestion problems in government hospitals especially in Mindanao, Go explained that DOH-run hospitals are under the management of the health department led by Secretary Francisco Duque III. However, as the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, he will coordinate with DOH regarding this problem to find solutions for this issue right away.

Go added that once the Malasakit Center Act of 2019 passes into law, the 72 DOH-run hospitals around the country will be prioritized to establish their own Malasakit Center. In other public hospitals, Go said that they will set criteria before putting up a Malasakit Center to make sure that it will be fully operational and sustainable. 

Moreover, Go has also filed bills that seek to improve other aspects of health care in the country. One of which will require LGUs to appoint at least three barangay health workers in every barangay, institutionalization of an emergency medical services system, formulating an advanced nursing education program, expanding the coverage of the mandatory basic immunization program and the establishment of a drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation center in every province.

“Of course, I will file more bills as the need arises and as I continue to serve as your Senator,” Go vowed as he also thanked the Duterte administration and all who has helped in making the Malasakit Center a reality for every Filipino.
 
“Magkaisa at magtulungan po tayo upang lalong mapaglingkuran ang mga Pilipino. Ituloy po natin ang pagbabago!” Go ended.

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