Senator Christopher “Bong” Go attended the virtual launch of the country’s 81st Malasakit Center on Friday, September 4, at the Far North Luzon General Hospital and Training Center in Luna, Apayao. It is the second Malasakit Center established in the Cordillera Administrative Region and 41st in Luzon.

“Itong Malasakit Center sa Apayao ay pang-81st Malasakit Center na po ito sa buong bansa at batas na ito ngayon. Gaya ng ipinangako natin noon ay mayroon na kayong Malasakit Center po dyan sa inyong lugar” Go said to residents of Apayao in his speech delivered through a video conferencing online platform.

The Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop where Filipinos can avail of financial and medical assistance from four agencies of the government, namely the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, and PhilHealth.

With the unified office, the system of providing assistance to patients is streamlined. Patients or their representatives need to only fill up the Malasakit Form for said assistance to be processed quickly. The center also prioritizes senior citizens and persons with disability, and targets a zero-balance payment for all qualified patients.

“Hindi na po kailangan lumabas pa ng mga pasyente tulad noon na naghahanap pa sila ng apat na ahensya, at kung saan opisina nila. Ubos ‘yung pamasahe, ubos pa ‘yung panahon nila sa kakapila. Isang linggo ‘yan pipila, madaling araw pa para lang po humingi ng tulong,” Go said.

“Sa Malasakit Center, isang opisina nalang sa ospital mismo sa lugar ninyo ang kailangan ninyong puntahan upang makakuha ng mas mabilis at mas maayos na tulong medikal mula sa gobyerno,” he added.

The Senator also said in his speech that the Malasakit Center was envisioned after his experience when he was assistant to then mayor of Davao City, now President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Nung matagal po akong nagtrabaho kay Mayor Duterte, si Pangulong Duterte ngayon, sa City Hall, alam naman natin na marami pong pasyente na lumalapit. Kahit na hindi residente ng Davao ay humihingi ng tulong dahil alam nila ‘yung Davao City…maraming pondo at malaking syudad.” Go said.

“Maraming pumupunta as far as sa General Santos City, Surigao, Agusan. Humihingi po ng tulong sa City Hall at dun ko po nakita ang puso ng ating mahal na Pangulo sa mga mahihirap dahil hindi po niya matiis na hindi tumulong sa mga hindi taga-Davao City during his time as mayor,” the Senator said.

When Go was elected as Senator in 2019, he authored and sponsored the Malasakit Centers Act to institutionalize the program to provide better and more accessible healthcare services for Filipinos, most especially the poor and indigent patients. With the enactment of the Republic Act No. 11463, otherwise known as the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, all DOH-run hospitals in the country and the Philippine General Hospital in Manila are now mandated to establish their own Malasakit Centers.

In addition to this, hospitals run by local government units and other public hospitals may also establish their own Malasakit Centers. They will have to meet a standard set of criteria to ensure the sustainability of the operation of the center, including maintenance and personnel, with the help of concerned national agencies.

Go explained that the Malasakit Center is for all Filipinos needing assistance from the government for their hospital bills and other medical needs.

“Bakit pa natin papahirapan ang mga kababayan natin eh sa totoo lang, pera nila ‘yan? Kanila po ‘yan. ‘Wag na natin pahirapan, lalong-lalo na ngayong panahon ng pandemya. Mas lalo silang mahihirapan pumila dun at magkakahawaan pa ng sakit dahil sa hangaring humingi ng tulong,” Go said.

“Pera po nila ito. Ibinabalik lang sa kanila sa pamamagitan ng mabilis, maayos at maaasahang serbisyong medikal mula sa gobyernong nagmamalasakit sa kanila,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Senator assured that he and President Duterte are determined to resolve the controversies surrounding PhilHealth in order to provide Filipinos the best service they deserve especially in terms of healthcare.

“Sa amin naman, ayaw naming may masayang na pera ng Pilipino, lalong-lalo na po rito sa PhilHealth. Remittances ng OFW (halimbawa) ay pinaghirapan nila, pinagpawisan nila. Dapat ibalik ang pera para sa tao po,” he said.

Go stressed that PhilHealth must be reformed and the new leadership must be able to balance improving healthcare services to the public while putting an end to the perennial issues of deep-rooted, systemic corruption plaguing the state health insurance agency for years.

“Bukod sa public health, ang mas malaking problema ng PhilHealth ngayon ay ang corruption. Paano natin matutulungan ang mga Pilipino kung ang pera na dapat pampagamot nila ay ninanakaw lang ng mga kurakot dyan. Kapag natigil ang corruption, mas makakaasa tayo na aayos ang serbisyo ng PhilHealth,” Go explained.

Go also explained that for PhilHealth to be able to improve public health services, officials must first ensure that the people’s money intended for this purpose is secured.

“We cannot afford na pagdating ng panahon ay magkakaproblema ang PhilHealth at sasabihin nila, ‘I’m so sorry sa pasyente wala na po kaming pondo’. Di po katanggap-tanggap sa amin ni Pangulong Duterte ‘yun… Kaya kami ni Pangulo, hindi kami papayag na masasayang ang pera ng Pilipino, at masasayang ang PhilHealth dahil sa korapsyon,” Go added.

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