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Senate OKs Malasakit Center bill on second reading
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Senate OKs Malasakit Center bill on second reading

November 8 ------ The Senate approved on second reading Wednesday night a bill seeking to establish Malasakit Centers in all hospitals run by the Department of Health throughout the country. This was after senators introduced amendments to Senate Bill 1076 which were adopted by the sponsor, Senator Christopher ‘Bong’ Go. One of the amendments was not prohibiting a patient or his or her representative from accessing and request medical and financial assistance directly from the concerned agencies, in addition to what the Malasakit Centers seek to provide.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also sought to ensure that the law will not limit access to assistance to or availability of medical and financial assistance only to indigent and financially incapacitated patients. The proposed bill was also modified so that it will not exclude individual referrals to other agencies for financial assistance. Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) should be included in the measure. PGH is run by the University of the Philippines – Manila.

Go agreed for PGH to be specifically mentioned in the bill, saying that he “interposes no objection as it is a premier national university hospital.” He added that there is currently a Malasakit Center established in PGH to help patients in need of medical assistance in Manila. Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros proposed to enhance the health promotion and education functions of the Malasakit Centers. The bill intends to reduce the out-of-pocket expenditures of indigent and poor patients including non-medical expenses.

The Malasakit Centers will serve as one-stop shops for all medical and financial assistance to indigent and poor patients, putting in one center all government agencies presently involved in giving these assistance. Malasakit Centers will also serve as health care processing centers for patient assistance and referral to provide much needed system support for patient navigation under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law. At present, there are 49 Malasakit Centers already established nationwide.

Go said that he seeks to institutionalize and set criteria for the establishment of Malasakit Centers to ensure that these centers are properly staffed so that concerned agencies are represented and are functioning properly.