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Recto: We spend P2.5M for a PMA graduate, but we can’t spend the same for a gov’t surgeon

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Senate President Pro Tempore ‎Ralph Recto said the government could only fill up a third of the nearly 1,000 Doctor to the Barrios (DTTB) it needed to serve the rural sector in the last two years.

Recto said the Department of Health recruited only 320 doctors for the 946 DTTB available slots in 2015 and in 2016 due to the lack of interest in the program with its hardship pay of only P50,000 a month.

He said the ‎killing of a DTTB Dr. Dreyfuss Perlas, in Lanao del Norte ‎last March 1 would likely dampen interest in the program.

“Konti na nga lang, nalagasan pa,” said Recto who cited “unattractive pay” and “the desire to undergo further training” as main reasons for the lack of interest in the grassroots program.
T‎o guarantee a steady supply of doctors, Recto said the government would have to “infuse more incentives” into the medical scholarship program being run by the DOH, “by making it at par with what cadets at the Philippine Military Academy and Philippine National Police Academy get.”

“If taxpayers are spending P2.5 million to produce one PMA graduate, why can’t we spend the same in training future surgeons?” Recto asked.

Recto has been advocating for the “expansion and institutionalization” of DOH’s medical scholarship program.

He said the attractive package for future MDs can be included in his “One Town, One Doctor” bill, in which government will choose one medical student scholar per town – on the condition that when he becomes a doctor, he will go back to his town to serve for four years.

“In short, this is a ‘galing sa bayan, tungo sa bayan’ scheme of producing doctors. We pick from among the town’s best and brightest, finance his medical studies, and when he becomes a doctor, he repays it by serving his own people,” Recto said.

And while the doctor is doing his mandatory four-year community service, another bright young student from the same town will start medical schooling so that there will be a replacement after four or five year

“If we’re facing a lack of rural doctors, this is one way to guarantee supply,” Recto said. “This is one investment with a high social ROI.”

According to experts, the country’s public health system is grappling with a shortage of 60,000 doctors. As result, six out of 10 Filipinos die without seeing a doctor.

Under Recto’s “One Town, One Doctor” bill, the DOH-administered scholarship will cover “tuition, laboratory, miscellaneous fees, and all school fees; textbooks, supplies and equipment; clothing and uniform allowances; traveling, subsistence and living expenses.”

To qualify, an applicant must belong to the upper 30 percent of a graduating class of any pre-Med course and have been accepted to medical school.

If no one from a town qualifies for the program, the allotted slot may be assumed by a scholar coming from another town in the same province. The scholar, however, upon getting his license to practice will have to serve in the town which provided the slot.