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129th Malasakit Center launched in Tondo as Bong Go pushes for improved health care access especially in urban poor communities

PASAY CITY -- Senator Christopher “Bong” Go personally attended the launch of the country’s 129th Malasakit Center at the Tondo Medical Center in Tondo District on Friday, July 16, as the facility, which began operations in 1971, marked its fiftieth year of unwavering commitment to the health and welfare of the residents of Manila City.

The TMC is the 26th hospital in the National Capital Region and fifth in the city to open a Malasakit Center, in addition to the Philippine General Hospital, Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital and Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center.

The Senator, who heads the Senate Committee on Health, acknowledged in a speech delivered during the ceremony that while health facilities and medical services are generally better in urban areas, such health advantages are often not enjoyed by lower income groups.

He recounted his years of experience helping indigents who need medical attention. This strengthened his desire to help government agencies develop initiatives to improve access to affordable and quality health services to the poor and marginalized.

“Nung mayor pa si Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ng Davao City, maraming residente o hindi residente ang pumupunta ng city hall para humingi ng tulong para sa kanilang pampagamot. Lunes, pipila ‘yan sa PhilHealth at Martes sa [Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office]. Ubos na oras nila sa biyahe, ubos pa pera nila sa pamasahe,” recounted Go.

“Sabi ko sa sarili ko bakit ba natin pinapahirapan ang Pilipino? Dapat tayo, ang gobyerno, ang lumalapit sa kanila. Responsibilidad natin ibalik ang pera nila sa pamamagitan ng mas mabilis at maayos na serbisyo. Kaya nung naging Senador ako, ito ang unang batas na aking ni-file kasama ng Salary Standardization Law V na nag-increase ng mga sahod niyo,” he continued.

In 2019, Go principally authored and sponsored a measure that became Republic Act No. 11463 which institutionalized the Malasakit Centers program. The law streamlines the provision of medical assistance from the government by bringing together the relevant agencies under one roof, namely PhilHealth, PCSO, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Health.

The primary aim of the Malasakit Center is to help reduce a patients’ hospital bill to the lowest possible amount by covering various patient services and expenses, such as surgeries, laboratories and medicines through existing medical assistance programs.

“Marami pang Pilipino ang hindi nakakaalam sa Malasakit Center kaya sabihan niyo ang mga kapitbahay niyo na mayroon na din kayo dito sa Tondo. Wala itong pinipili. Karapatan niyo bilang Pilipino ang maka-avail ng serbisyo nito,” maintained Go.

“Halimbawa, may dagdag na gastos ang pasyente na hindi covered ng PhilHealth, diyan na papasok ang mga ibang ahensya. Ngayon, kung kulang pa ang tulong, ang bawat center ay may replenishable na funds mula sa Office of the President para pangdagdag tulong. Target ng Malasakit Center na maging ‘zero balance’ ang inyong hospital bill para wala na kayong babayaran,” he clarified further.

The Senator called on the hospital administration to maximize the government’s funds in order to provide poorest patients who are most in need with affordable to free medical care. He noted the increased psychological distress experienced by patients and their families at this time and appealed for more compassion and understanding, especially for the disadvantaged.

“Isa lang ang bilin namin ni Pangulong Duterte sa mga doctors at social workers, ‘wag niyo pababayaan ang mga kababayan natin na helpless, hopeless at walang matakbuhan. Maraming pasyente ang takot at maikli ang pasensya sa panahong ito but, please, extend your patience. And do not extend the number of patients,” said Go.

In the end, he reminded the medical community to stay vigilant against the spread of new and possibly more contagious variants of the coronavirus which could spark another uptick in new cases in Metro Manila. Go stressed the need for cooperation, emphasizing that one’s health and well-being is also dependent on the overall health of the community.

“Nakakabahala na recently, may na diskubre na 16 na kaso ng Delta variant… Napaka-importante na ma-contain natin ito agad. Huwag maging kumpiyansa dahil hindi natin kakayanin kung tataas muli ang bilang ng mga kaso. Marami ang maapektuhan at mawawalan ng trabaho kung magsasara tayo muli,” said Go.

“Nakakatakot talaga ito. Nagsasara na ang mga ibang bansa dahil dumadami ulit ang mga kaso nila. Sa ngayon, ginagawa namin ni Pangulo ang lahat para balansehin ang ekonomiya at public health. Ayaw namin may nahihirapan pero ang magiging pangunahing konsiderasyon namin sa bawat desisyon ng gobyerno ay ang kalusugan at buhay ng bawat Pilipino,” he concluded.

After the ceremony, Go and his personnel distributed meals, food packs, vitamins, masks and face shields to a total of 1,125 frontline health workers. Selected beneficiaries were given bicycles while others received new pairs of shoes. Some were also provided computer tablets which their children can use for educational purposes. Similar forms of aid were extended to 200 indigent patients. The DSWD likewise provided 579 rank-and-file hospital employees with financial assistance in a separate distribution.

“Nandito ang anak ko dahil sa (urinary track infection). Bago ko siya dalhin dito, hindi siya makakain at mataas ang lagnat niya. Pinoproblema namin ngayon kung saan kami kukuha ng pambayad sa ospital. Nawalan kasi ng trabaho ang asawa ko na isang konduktor ng bus,” said Maricel Paras, 45, a resident of Caloocan City.

“Malaking bagay ang Malasakit Center sa aming mahihirap. Marami itong matutulungan na mahihirap na may sakit at mga taong nangangailangan. Nagpapasalamat po kami kay Senator Bong Go na nagkaroon siya ng ganitong programa. Nagpapasalamat din kami kay Pangulong Duterte sa tulong na pinagkaloob niya sa aming mga mahihirap," she continued.

The ceremony was also attended by Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Chair Greco Belgica, Undersecretary Jonjie Gonzales of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, DOH Usec. Roger Tong-an, Assistant Secretary Girlie Veloso of the Office of the President, Mike Lopez representing 1st District Representative Manuel Lopez, and Medical Center Director Dr. Maria Estrella, among others.

To boost the infrastructure development in Manila City, Go, as Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, earlier supported the funding for the structural improvement of the public buildings and construction of evacuation centers near the Department of Justice compound, among others. (OSBG)

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Kate Shiene Austria

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Information Officer III under the Office of the Deputy Director-General-Digital Development Communications Unit of Philippine Information Agency. 

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