COTABATO CITY — A measure that would grant medical scholarships and return service programs to aspiring doctors, as well as require them to serve in the Bangsamoro region for at least two years, has been filed by several lawmakers.
The Parliament Bill No. 204, also known as the Bangsamoro Medical Scholarship Act of 2022, aims to address the scarcity of medical professionals and ensure that the Bangsamoro people have access to the best healthcare services.
Through the proposed bill authored by Members of Parliament Eddie Alih, Mohagher Iqbal, and Zul Qarneyn Abas, the region will produce more competent, committed, and community-oriented medical physicians to serve in the region and neighboring towns.
The MPs stated in their explanatory note that healthcare services in BARMM are still lagging behind those in other parts of the country, and that the proactive approach to a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic is “to start strengthening the medical frontliners by giving rise to medical doctors who would serve as our first and only line of defense to an enemy we cannot even see.”
Authors of the proposed measure said that it will help ensure that medical students can pursue their education with a minimal financial burden, allowing them to focus on their education and training.
Under the measure, the scholarship is open to the Bangsamoro people who are not beneficiaries of any scholarship programs, including health professionals working in government offices, children and dependents of BARMM employees, barangay health workers, traditional birth attendants, and families of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.
The scholars will be obligated to serve the region once they have completed their degrees and obtained their license as a physician.
According to the country’s Department of Health, the COVID-19 has left the Philippines short of 92,000 doctors and 44,000 nurses.
As of April 2020, BARMM had one doctor for every 12,000 residents.
The shortage of healthcare personnel in the country is exacerbated by the annual out-migration of 13,000 healthcare professionals, as reported by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
Once approved, the Bangsamoro Medical Scholarship Program will cover 100% of all the expenses of a scholar. These include tuition, miscellaneous and laboratory fees; student fund; books, uniforms, transportation, basic equipment, school supplies, miscellaneous, monthly living subsidy and lodging allowance; fees for the licensure review and examination; and PhilHealth insurance. (LTAIS-Public Information, Publication, and Media Relations Division)