Indigent patients from South Cotabato province and neighboring areas may now avail of “totally-free” hospitalization services, with the opening of the country’s 80th Malasakit Center at the provincial hospital in Koronadal City.
The Malasakit Center, the first in the province, began catering to local patients following its official launch in a simple ceremony on Tuesday afternoon. Joining them were Undersecretary Robert Eric Borje, the chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs, and provincial officials led by Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr.
It was virtually attended by Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, and Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino and Assistant Secretary Jonji Gonzales of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Visayas (OPAV).
In his speech, Go said the opening of the Malasakit Center at the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital (SCPH) was part of the national government’s efforts to make health services more accessible to the people, especially the poor.
Through the center’s one-stop-shop, he said indigent patients are now assured of full coverage for their medical and hospital expenses.
The facility hosts desks for representatives of the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, and Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
Patients may directly avail of government assistance from these agencies and on top of that, any remaining balance on the bills would be covered by the Malasakit Center, he said.
Priority or express lanes will be provided by the center for senior citizens and persons with disabilities.
“This program has no political color. Anybody who is poor or indigent has the right to avail of its services,” Go said.
He said the Office of the President has already released an initial PHP5 million funding for the newly opened Malasakit Center.
The center would also get an additional PHP10 million one-time buffer fund to sustain its operations, Go said, adding that the Office of the President, in coordination with his office and other concerned agencies, are currently working on the opening of additional Malasakit Centers as set in Republic Act 11463.
The law, authored by the senator, provides for the establishment of 73 centers in DOH-run hospitals.
Similar facilities may also be opened in qualified local government-operated hospitals.
The provincial government and SCPH, which celebrated its 51st anniversary on Tuesday, submitted a proposal through OPAV in July last year for the establishment of the Malasakit Center.
Tamayo thanked the office of President Rodrigo Duterte, in coordination with Go and OPAV, for approving the proposal.
He said the opening of the facility complements the local government’s efforts to provide free hospitalization for all residents.
“We are now assured that this program (free hospitalization) will be sustained long-term,” Tamayo said, committing to continue the upgrade and improvement of the facilities and services at the SCPH, which serves patients from the province and parts of Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao. (Allen Estabillo, PNA)