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Friday, April 19, 2024

House bill pushes establishment of specialty hospitals in the regions

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Lawmakers are pushing for the establishment of specialty hospitals across major regions in the country to bring quality health care closer to people residing outside Metro Manila.

House Bill (HB) 6857 filed by Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, Benguet Rep. Eric Yap, and ACT-CIS Reps. Jeffrey Soriano and Edvic Yap aims to establish these specialty hospitals in Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, Visayas, Northern Mindanao and Southern Mindanao.

The type of specialty hospital shall be determined by the Department of Health (DOH) based on its assessment of prevailing illnesses in particular locality.

Such specialty hospitals include branches of the Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine Children’s Medical Center and the soon-to-be established Philippine Cancer Center.

The bill’s authors pointed out that existing specialty hospitals are all located in Metro Manila.

“In order to afford the expertise of [these] hospitals’ medical professionals and its advanced amenities and equipment, patients are being encumbered by the additional expenses on transportation and accommodation for their medical needs to be catered, most especially those that are from far-flung areas or provinces,” read the explanatory note of HB 6857 or the proposed Regional Specialty Hospitals Act.

Duterte said their proposed law will “ensure that affordable, quality healthcare is accessible to most Filipinos.”

“Many Filipinos flock to the specialty hospitals located in Metro Manila because they offer quality medical care and treatment that are more affordable than those available in private hospitals. Establishing branches of the Heart Center, the Kidney Institute and other government-run specialty hospitals in strategic areas in the country will help address the widening inequity in healthcare,” Duterte said.

“Our proposed measure will bring specialty health care closer to people living in the provinces,” Duterte added.

HB 6857 states that once it is enacted into law, the regional branches of specialty hospitals shall be built within three years.

On top of operating as specialty hospitals, the regional branches are also tasked under the bill to promote, encourage and engage in scientific research on the prevention of heart, kidney, liver, cancer and pulmonary diseases.

The regional branches should also aim to, among others, assist universities, hospitals and research institutions in the studies of these diseases; and encourage or undertake the training of physicians, other medical personnel and social workers on the practical and scientific conduct and implementation of services related to these diseases.

Under the bill, all tax exemptions and privileges enjoyed by the existing Metro Manila-based specialty hospitals shall also be availed by their regional branches.

“The national government shall constitute the necessary land, building, equipment and facilities, to the regional branches of the specialty hospital, and shall pay such obligations for real, personal and mixed properties arising from such undertaking under a deferred payment arrangement within five years at a preferred rate of interest,” the bill read.

It also appropriates P5 billion as the national government’s contribution for the “initial establishment, operations and maintenance” of the regional specialty hospitals. The succeeding budgets of the regional specialty hospitals shall be provided through the General Appropriations Act.

The DOH has crafted a development plan for specialty care as part of the Philippine Health Facility Development Plan (PHFDP) 2020-2040, which primarily includes the development of 328 specialty centers across different hospitals in all regions of the country.

“In addition, no less than the Local Government Code [LGC] itself has devolved the health services to the local government units with the objective of making quality health services more accessible to every Filipino. The case of decentralizing specialty hospitals is no different,” the bill’s authors said.

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