With all Department of Health (DOH)-run hospitals now assured to get their own Malasakit Center with the passage of Republic Act (RA) 11463, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Monday, December 16, joined in another successful launch of one of these one-stop-shop medical assistance centers, this time at the Antipolo City Hospital.

The said center is the 55th in the country and the 26th to open in Luzon. The latest to open before this was at the Margarito Duavit Memorial Hospital in Binangonan, Rizal.

“Dito po sa bagong Malasakit Center sa Antipolo, nasa iisang bahay na lamang ang apat na ahensiya ng gobyerno na handang magbigay ng tulong sa mga pasyente,” Go said in his speech.

Malasakit Centers are hubs inside government hospitals that expedite the provision of medical and financial assistance from concerned government agencies and offices to Filipino patients. They were conceptualized and initiated by Go to provide quick access to government medical services for all Filipinos.

The mentioned agencies are the DOH, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) which have their own programs providing financial assistance to indigent patients in need.

“Noon, kailangan pa ng mga taga-Antipolo na pumila sa iba’t ibang opisina ng gobyerno para lamang sa financial assistance. Ubos na ang panahon ninyo, ubos pa ang pamasahe ninyo. Ngayon dahil may Malasakit Center dito sa Antipolo City Hospital, magtutulungan (ang mga ahensiya ng gobyerno) para i-cover ang hospital expenses ninyo,” Go said.

“Zero balance po ang target ng Malasakit Center,” he added. The Senator also said that senior citizens and persons with disabilities will be prioritized in the centers through an express lane.

The office covers patient services and expenses, such as laboratories, medicines, surgeries or operations, with the exemption of professional fees and private room accommodation.

The process of seeking assistance has also been simplified through the Malasakit Unified Form, which means there is only one form to fill up for Filipinos requesting medical assistance.

“Tuloy-tuloy po ito sa lahat ng mga DOH-run hospitals dahil napirmahan na ni Pangulo ang Malasakit Center Act of 2019. Ayon po sa batas, 73 na DOH-run hospitals ay lalagyan ng Malasakit Center,” Go shared.

He added that the law allows local government units (LGUs) to establish Malasakit Centers provided that they meet the standards and criteria to ensure sustainability and consistency in the services provided by the centers.

“We have set criteria para sundin nila para hindi po bungi-bungi ang mga Malasakit Center,” he said.

During the event, Go was approached by two patients—Alberto Correa and Madeline Elise Lorie Estanislao— personally seeking his assistance. Correa is in need of artificial legs, while seven-year-old Estanislao suffers from Atrial Septal Defect and Pulmonary Stenosis. The senator has committed to assist them on their medical needs and help shoulder expenses for the prosthetics of Correa and the treatment of Estanislao in the Philippine Heart Center.

In an ambush interview, Go emphasized that the Universal Healthcare (UHC) Law signed by President Duterte will be complemented by the Malasakit Center Law.

“They will complement each other. Sa UHC, miyembro ang lahat ng mga Pilipino nito. May specific package po ito na sasagutin. ‘Yung hindi po kayang bayaran ng UHC sa inyong pagpapagamot, d’yan papasok ang mga ahensya ng gobyerno na nasa Malasakit Centers,” Go clarified.

The Senator discussed with the top officials of Rizal province for possible opening of another Malasakit Center in the province, this time in San Mateo town. Additional Malasakit Centers will also be launched in Pasay and San Juan cities within the week.

Meanwhile, asked on updates regarding the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Mindanao yesterday, December 15, Go said that he has already sent aid to the victims on their way to recovery.

“Nandoon ako kahapon nung lindol. Sobrang lakas talaga. It is beyond our control. Ngayon po magtulungan na lang tayo. Maging vigilant tayo kapag ganitong may sakuna,” he said.

He added that his office has provided initial support to the victims such as tents, foodpacks and relief assistance. The Senator also offered to aid children cope with the trauma.

“Meron din tayong konting tulong. Nagpadala tayo ng tents sa Padada, sa Magsaysay, Davao del Sur. ‘Yung mga bata naman na traumatized, dadalhin ko sa Davao (City), ipapasyal ko. Papanoorin ko ng sine,” he said.

Go added that the President is closely monitoring the situation and has ordered government agencies to mobilize frontline disaster response and humanitarian assistance for all the victims.

Aside from health, Go also advocates for the enhancement of disaster preparedness measures and policies in the country. In July, Go filed Senate Bill 205 which seeks to establish an “empowered, highly-specialized, and responsive Department of Disaster Resilience with clear unity of command.”

In a previous interview, Go reiterated the need for such department to ensure quick response and holistic approach in conducting rescue operations in times of calamities, such as the four strong earthquakes that hit Mindanao within two months only.

“I am pushing for the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience so that there is a sole agency that will respond to the needs of the victims. This will give a faster and effective response if the process will be streamlined and the government has a holistic approach,” the senator said.

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