Senator Christopher Go
Senator Christopher Go said the newly-signed Republic Act No. 11959 or the Regional Specialty Centers Law will bridge the gaps in Philippine healthcare services.
Go, in a statement, emphasized the need for the law, stating, “As the principal sponsor and one of the authors of the measure together with no less than Senate President Migz Zubiri, I have long recognized the need to bring specialized medical services to more poor and indigent Filipino patients, most of them living outside Metro Manila where most, if not all, of our national specialty centers are found.
Go is the principal sponsor and one of the authors of the law which was recently signed by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
RA 11959 mandates the establishment of specialty centers throughout the country to enhance the accessibility of specialized medical services for Filipinos.
The law seeks to decentralize the availability of specialized medical services, traditionally concentrated in the capital city, and distribute them to Department of Health (DOH) hospitals in every region.
Highlighting the urgency and the expected benefits of this move, Go remarked, “In doing so, we will be bringing essential specialty medical services closer to our people—particularly the hopeless, helpless, and those who have no one to turn to except the government.”
“The Regional Specialty Centers will also help decongest our existing national specialty centers, such as the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong City, the Philippine Heart Center, and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City,” he added.
This initiative is part of a multi-year plan, with the government planning to set up Regional Specialty Centers across various regions within the next five years. While there are already existing specialty centers in select major hospitals across the country, this law aims to ensure that each region has its own specialty centers tailored to meet the specific healthcare needs of its local population.
These Regional Specialty Centers will provide a wide range of services including cardiovascular care, renal care and transplant services, lung care, cancer treatment, brain and spine care, neonatal care, burn treatment, geriatric care, trauma care, eye care, mental health services, dermatological care, toxicology, an orthopedic center, physical rehabilitation medicine, and treatment for infectious diseases and tropical medicine.
For many Filipinos, especially the indigent, seeking specialized medical care often means traveling long distances to major cities like Manila, incurring significant travel and living expenses.
The new law promises to alleviate these burdens by bringing medical services closer to those in need. One of the concerns raised about the new law was whether it would face challenges in funding and implementation.
Addressing this, Go emphasized the importance of sustainable and adequate funding to ensure that the Regional Specialty Centers Law will be properly implemented.
He further elaborated on the financial strategy, stating, “For the fiscal year 2024, Congress approved the initial P10-billion fund for the establishment of these centers in DOH hospitals.”
The senator also cited that based on projections of DOH, the estimated total cost for the 2024-2028 implementation period is P76 billion, to be sourced from the annual General Appropriations Acts (GAA) and other funding sources.
In a move to ensure better financial viability, Go explained that the law mandates the establishment of these centers within existing DOH hospitals, rather than constructing new facilities.
He highlighted existing models, “In fact, there are already functional specialty centers in those hospitals, such as cardiovascular care, lung care, eye care, neonatal, trauma, cancer care, toxicology, and dermatology care inside the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, for example.”
“All we need to do is to develop, upgrade them, and bring such services to other existing regional hospitals around the country,” he added.