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Senate OKs 'Doktor Para sa Bayan' bill on 2nd reading

The Senate on Tuesday approved on second reading the proposed Doktor Para Sa Bayan Act, establishing a medical scholarship and return service agreement for deserving students in the country.

Senate Bill No. 1520 aims to ensure that every town in the Philippines has at least one doctor by covering the medical students' tuition and other school fees, required textbooks, uniform, and living allowances, among others.

To qualify for the scholarship, the applicant must be a natural-born or naturalized Filipino citizen residing in the Philippines, whose family income is insufficient to support medical education.

The student must also pass the National Medical Admission Test and entrance exam required by the medical school.

After graduating and passing the licensure examinations for physicians, the scholar must fulfill the mandatory return service agreement by serving his hometown or any underserved municipality determined by the Department of Health as a priority area—one year for every year that the scholarship has been availed of.

Otherwise, the physician-scholar will be required to pay the full cost of the scholarship, including other benefits and related expenses.

Further, this bill seeks to establish state universities and colleges offering the doctor of medicine program in ten regions of the country lacking such within five years from the date of its enactment.

There are currently only nine public medical schools in the Philippines. The private ones number to 46.

Senator Joel Villanueva, sponsor of the bill, said the country is lacking 80,000 more physicians to meet the ideal doctor-to-population ratio of 10:10,000.

The deliberation of the bill came as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to highlight the need to strengthen the medical workforce in the country. -NB, GMA News