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Senators pushing for medical schools in SUCs

Senators are pushing for the establishment of more medical schools in state universities and colleges (SUCs) to help increase the number of doctors in the Philippines.

Sen. Joel Villanueva (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN/MANILA BULLETIN)

In the Senate’s plenary discussion Monday afternoon of Senate Bill No. 1520, the proposed Medical Scholarship Act, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that aside from offering scholarships, SUCs should also be assisted to offer medical courses so they can keep producing health workers.

“We should encourage and support more medical schools in our public universities in order to increase our number of graduates,” Drilon said in his interpellation of SB No. 1520 sponsored by Senator Joel Villanueva.

The Medical Scholarship Bill proposes the creation of a medical scholarship and a return service program for aspiring doctors in SUCs and partner private higher education institutions (HEIs) in regions where there are no SUCs offering medicine.

Villanueva admitted that besides the expensive cost of medical education in the country, another main problem that contributes to the lack of Filipino doctors was the minimal number of universities that offer medical courses.

Citing government data as of October, 2019, he said there are only 55 medical schools in the country, 18 of which are located in the National Capital Region.

Four regions have no medical schools at all: Region 4-B, Region 12, Caraga, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

Of the number, only nine are under SUCs. There are a total of 112 SUCs in the Philippines, he said.

“We should be conscious and devote our public funds in order to put up medical schools in public universities. We cannot achieve the ideal ratio, unless we devote funds to our public universities,” Drilon said.

“Scholarship is a good law, but the way I see it, this will not answer our problems because we need more medical schools,” he added.

Villanueva agreed with Drilon, saying he is amenable to insert the minority leader’s proposal in the bill.

Sen. Sonny Angara also raised the lack of training hospitals.

Sen. Cynthia Villar said she also believes that there should be at least one medical school per region to address the lack of doctors.

“Tingin ko, dapat magtayo lahat, bawat region, ang isang SUC ng isang medical school (I think every region should establish one medical school in SUC),” she said.

“Pag tinayuan mo ‘yan (If you build one in each region) — there are 17 regions in the Philippines — I think makukuha natin ‘yong target mong number of doctors at nasa buong Pilipinas pa sila (we can achieve the target number of doctors and they will be distributed all over the country). So hindi mangyayari na sa region mo, walang doktor (it will not happen that in your region, you do not have a doctor),” she said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, principal author of the bill, explained to his colleagues that the lack of medical schools in the country was due to the low number of enrollees.

“The main reason is gustong gustong mag doctor ng mga bata [pero] hindi kaya ng magulang kaya ibang course ang papasukan (the children want to become doctors so bad but their parents cannot afford it, so they end up taking other courses),” he said, citing his research.

“So first things first, gawin nating libre ang pagdodoctor ng Pilipino, magtatayo ng eskwelahan ‘yong iba at magkakaroon ng eskwelahan (let’s make doctor courses free for Filipinos, then universities will be encouraged to put up medical schools),” he said.

Villanueva said the bill aims to gradually raise the number of medical graduates and doctors in the country to catch up with the ideal 10:10,000 ratio between doctors and the population as advised by the World Health Organization.

The Philippines is short of 79,589 to 133,598 doctors to meet the standard, he said.

Of the 84,662 licensed doctors, only 28,428 are working in the country. The other 56,264 are either outside the country or not practicing their profession, he said.

Also, 10,197 of the doctors in the Philippines are serving in Metro Manila.

Villanueva said at least P2 billion may be needed to fund the proposed medical scholarship law.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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