A House leader on Monday urged young Filipinos to pursue medical careers to help ease the shortage of health professionals further worsened by the ongoing coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) crisis.
House Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera said the Philippines badly needs more doctors and nurses to replenish the medical workforce, which is crucial to having a stronger health care system that could withstand future pandemics.
“If we are to strengthen the country’s health care system to make it more effective in responding to any pandemic threats in the future, we need to have more doctors, nurses and other medical professionals on the frontlines,” said Herrera.
“To make sure we will not run out of doctors and nurses, we need to encourage young Filipinos to consider a career in health care and be the next generation of heroes and champions of public health,” she added.
Herrera pointed out that the country already had persistent shortage in health professionals even before it was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The shortage, she said, is getting worse because according to the Department of Health (DoH), a dozen of medical workers have died of COVID-19 and over 200 doctors and nurses have tested positive for the disease.
The Philippine Medical Association (PMA), on the other hand, said 17 doctors have succumbed to COVID-19.
The Philippines has a ratio of one doctor for every 33,000 persons.
This is significantly higher than the global average of 1:6,000.
According to the PMA, there are a total of 130,000 licensed physicians in the country but only around 70,000 are active in the profession, as a good number of them have turned to nursing and work as nurses abroad.
Since pursuing a medical degree is proven to be expensive, Herrera said that students may avail of several scholarship programs offered by both the government and the private sector.
She cited the DoH Medicine Scholarship Program, which covers all four years of medical education, including summer immersion programs prior to the second and third years of medicine, and one year of post-graduate internship.
The program also covers all four years of a Bachelor of Science in Midwifery.
In return, scholars will be expected to work for two years in public health for every year of schooling shouldered by the health department.
The DoH gives priority to prospective students from low-income families, from geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas or from the country’s 20 poorest municipalities and cities, and from indigenous communities or the national minorities; dependent of government employees and active police and military personnel; victims of calamities; and barangay health workers and traditional birth attendants.
Herrera said the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), meanwhile, provides tuition subsidy and financial assistance to all medical students enrolled in eight state universities and colleges offering Doctor of Medicine Program, including the University of the Philippines in Manila and Leyte.
She said students may also avail of scholarships offered at top private medical schools, such as the William H. Quasha Memorial at St. Luke’s College of Medicine, University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center Inc.
Scholarship Programs, and Romeo P. Ariniego Scholarship for Medical Education at Silliman University in Dumaguete City.