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130th Malasakit Center opens in Batac, Ilocos Norte as Bong Go continues to push for better access to healthcare nationwide amid threats of ongoing pandemic

PASAY CITY -- Senator Christopher “Bong” Go expressed his firm commitment to improving the affordability and accessibility of quality healthcare in the country during the launch of the country’s 130th Malasakit Center at the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center in Batac City, Ilocos Norte on Friday, July 23.

This is the second Malasakit Center in the province and fifth in the region, after the Governor Roque B. Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital in Laoag City; Gabriela Silang General Hospital in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur; Region I Medical Center in Dagupan City; and Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center in San Fernando City, La Union.

In his virtual remarks, the Senator, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, noted that many Filipinos living in poor or far flung communities are unable to get medical care for health problems which adversely affects their productivity and quality of life. This has been more evident as the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

He warned against those delaying or ignoring their need for medical attention and encouraged those struggling with high out-of-pocket payments for their treatment and medication to visit their local Malasakit Center where they may conveniently avail of medical assistance from the government.

“Hindi pumipili ang Malasakit Center. Basta Pilipino ka, qualified ka. Wala nang dahilan para hindi kayo matulungan, lalung-lalo na kung poor o indigent patient ka. Pakiusap sa hospital staff, ‘wag niyong pababayaan ang mga mahihirap nating kababayan, ‘yung helpless, hopeless at walang matakbuhan sa panahong ito,” appealed Go.

The Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop where Filipino patients can conveniently apply for medical assistance from the relevant government agencies, specifically the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

To ensure Filipinos have easy access to quality and comprehensive medical care in a cost-effective manner, Go had principally authored and sponsored in the Senate the measure that became Republic Act No. 11463, otherwise known as the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019.

The law mandates all hospitals run by the DOH plus the Philippine General Hospital to establish their own Malasakit Center. Other public hospitals may also have their own Malasakit Centers provided that they meet a standard set of criteria in accordance with the law to ensure the sustainability of its operations.

“Kung hindi sapat ang tulong ng mga ahensya, may iniwang pondo ang Office of the President para maging ‘zero balance’ ang billing niyo at wala na kayong babayaran sa ospital. Ngayon, kung may pasyente na hindi kayang gamutin diyan, pwede natin kayong dalhin dito sa Maynila at ako na po ang sasagot sa gastusin niyo,” reassured Go.

Following the DOH’s recent confirmation of local transmissions of the Delta variant, the Senator went on to announce that the Duterte Administration is taking steps to ensure that hospitals and health facilities have what they need to respond to a possible sudden surge in cases.

He urged the public to continue to stay vigilant and take extra precautionary measures, even if one is fully vaccinated, to avoid any exposure to the variant. The Delta variant, he warned, is 40% to 60% more transmissible than the original coronavirus strain and is more resistant to existing vaccines.

“Nagpadala na ang gobyerno ng karagdagang life-saving medicine at equipment sa mga high-surge areas. Patuloy po nitong ginagawa ang lahat para balansehin ang economic at public health needs ng bansa pero, siyempre, pinakaimportante pa rin sa amin ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang buhay at kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino,” explained Go.

“Hindi natin kakayanin muli kung tumaas ang bilang ng mga kaso. Ayaw nating bumagsak ang ating health care system at may naghihingalo na pasyente sa labas ng ospital. Kailangan namin ang kooperasyon at disiplina ng bawat Pilipino para hindi kumalat ang nakakabahalang variant na ito,” he added.

Go also disclosed that the President is working closely with the heads of the DOH and PhilHealth to fast-track the disbursement of hospital claims submitted to the government to ensure the continued and unhampered delivery of health at this critical time.

“Matapos magpulong ng Pangulo, Health Secretary Francisco Duque at (PhilHealth) chief Atty. Dante Gierran ay gumawa na ang PhilHealth ng mga hakbang nitong nakaraang linggo para mapabilis ang proseso sa pagbabayad. Importante na mabayaran agad ang mga ospital para tuloy-tuloy ang serbisyo, may pambayad ito sa mga empleyado at may pangdagdag na kama," said Go.

"Gayunpaman, nakikiusap ako sa mga ospital na iwasan ang misrepresentations at false claims dahil nagpapabagal ito sa proseso. Dapat handa tayong lahat sakaling tumaas ang bilang ng mga kaso,” he ended.

Following the ceremony, the Senator's staff distributed meals, food packs, vitamins, masks and face shields to a total of 1,043 frontline medical workers and 70 indigent patients.

They provided select medical frontliners new pairs of shoes while others were given bicycles. Some also received computer tablets which their children can use for their education.

In addition, the DSWD distributed financial assistance to each indigent patient and 590 rank-and-file hospital employees, including janitors and security guards.

“Nandito ako sa ospital ngayon dahil nanganak ang misis ko. Pinanganak siya na premature kaya nasa intensive care unit siya ngayon. Masaya at nagpapasalamat kami dahil may Malasakit Center na dito. Mabilis na ang paglakad namin ng mga papeles at hindi na kami pabalik-balik dahil nasa isang building na ang lahat,” said Jonathan Carino, 31.

“Maraming, maraming salamat sa mahal na Pangulong Duterte at Senator Bong Go sa mga tulong na ibinigay niyo sa amin sa araw na ito. Marami po kayong natutulungan dito sa Ilocos Norte,” he continued

The Senator also thanked various individuals for their efforts to improve public service delivery, namely Senator Imee Marcos, Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, Assistant Secretary Girlie Veloso of the Office of the President, Governor Matthew Manotoc, Mayor Albert Chua and Medical Chief Dra. Maria Otayza.

To boost economic growth further, Go, as Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has supported various infrastructure initiatives in Ilocos Norte such as the concreting of existing roads in Bangui, Currimao, Nueva Era, and Pagudpud; the construction of a river control system in Bangui; and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads along the Manila North Road in Pagudpud, among others. (OSBG)

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