President Marcos has enacted a transformative healthcare law to improve Filipinos’ access to specialised medical services.
The law, known as the Regional Specialty Centers Act (RA 11959), was signed on August 24 and mandates the Department of Health (DOH) to establish specialty centres nationwide.
Diverse Range of Specialised Services
The new centres will offer an extensive range of services, including but not limited to cancer care, cardiovascular care, and renal care. The law also outlines priorities for mental health, infectious diseases, and geriatric care. These centres will act as hubs for specialised medical services in each region, eliminating the need for lengthy and costly trips to Metro Manila.
A Three-Tier Structure for Service Levels
RA 11959 instructs the DOH to categorise these centres into three levels: National Specialty Centers, Advanced Comprehensive Specialty Centers, and Basic Comprehensive Specialty Centers. The categorisation will align with the Philippine Health Facility Development Plan, ensuring the centres meet the DOH standards and guidelines.
Financial Commitments and Future Funding
Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez has pledged to allocate funds for these centres, reassuring the public that the initial implementation cost will be covered. However, the funding for these specialty centres may be separate from the proposed PHP 5.768 trillion national budget for 2024, as the budget was prepared before the law was signed.
Bridging the Gap in Healthcare Access
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri highlighted the vital impact of these centres, particularly for Filipinos living outside of Metro Manila. According to Zubiri, the new law will make medical services more accessible. Additionally, it will significantly reduce the cost of transportation and accommodation required to visit specialists in the capital.
Moreover, the law specifies that National Specialty Centers will provide training and technical support to regional centres. This will spearheading the research and development of protocols and policies for specialised services.
A Lifeline for Rural and Marginalised Communities
One of the most laudable aspects of this initiative is its focus on inclusivity. Romualdez confirmed that the House of Representatives would look for additional funds to support patients coming from remote communities. “We will also allocate medical assistance funds for them,” he said.
A Promise Delivered
The law follows through on political promises to make healthcare more equitable across the Philippines. “If there is a Field of Dreams, then specialty centres are Centers of Hope because it gives hope to Filipinos who have no access or could not travel to Manila to see a specialist for their illnesses,” said Zubiri.
Next Steps and Future Expectations
The initial funding for the specialty centres will come from the current year’s DOH budget. Subsequently, future costs are expected to be included in the department’s annual budget, thereby ensuring the sustainability of these centres.
Therefore, with the signing of the Regional Specialty Centers Act, the Philippine government has taken a monumental step towards democratising access to specialised healthcare services. As the specialty centres roll out, they promise better healthcare and renewed hope for millions of Filipinos.