Senator Christopher “Bong” Go called for solidarity and compassion to beat the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Go, chair of the Senate committee on health, made this appeal as he joined Mandaluyong City Mayor Carmelita A. Abalos, Rep. Neptali Gonzales II and other national and local government officials, during the launch of the 85th Malasakit Center at the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong City on Oct. 2.
The center is the first in Mandaluyong and the 16th in Metro Manila. It is a one-stop shop where indigent Filipino patients may conveniently apply for financial and medical assistance from the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
In his speech, Go thanked Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque, DSWD Undersecretary Aimee Torrefranca-Neri, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioner Greco B. Belgica, Abalos, Rep. Neptali Gonzales II and other attending officials for supporting the Malasakit Centers.
He encouraged all Filipinos to set aside politics and work together in solidarity while showing compassion to poor and vulnerable sectors to overcome the country’s current challenges and end the Covid-19 pandemic as a united nation.
“Alam kong hirap kayo dahil sa pandemya. Kami rin dito sa gobyerno hirap rin kami pero pagtulungan na lang po natin ito. Sino ba namang magtutulungan kundi tayo lang po kapwa natin Pilipino. Sabi nga ni Pangulo, parati kaming nag-uusap tuwing gabi, sabi niya ‘Bong, hayaan mo na ‘yan sila basta gawin lang natin, ang importante malampasan natin ito’ (I know you’re facing difficulties because of pandemic. We in government are also striving but let’s help each other. Only us Filipinos can each other. As the President said, we always talk, ‘Bong, don’t mind them. Just do our best. What is important we will overcome this),” said Go, referring to critics of the administration.
Go said as former top aide of President Rodrigo Duterte even when the President was still mayor of Davao City has exposed him to stressful and difficult processes Filipinos went through just to seek government aid for their medical bills.
These experiences, he said, prompted him to conceptualize the one-stop shop which he promised to push for during his senatorial campaign.
Republic Act 11463 or the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, authored and sponsored by Go, was eventually signed by Duterte in December 2019. The law mandates the establishment of the centers in every DOH-run hospital nationwide and in the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.
Other public hospitals can also establish their own Malasakit Centers provided they meet the standard set of criteria and guarantee the availability of funds for the center’s operation.
He promised to push for other relevant health-relates bills, such as the Senate Bill 1226 which expedites the process of increasing the number of hospital beds in DOH-run hospitals, and SBN 1471 which provides Filipino workers with mental health conditions immediate access to the compensation benefits they are entitled to.
Go earlier pushed for the passage of the Salary Standardization Law 5, his priority bill which now increased the salaries of all government employees, including public sector nurses.
He also fought for the inclusion of an additional budget in the 2020 budget to provide for the salary upgrade of public nurses in Nurse 1 and 2 positions.
Meanwhile, Go reassured the hospitals’ patients that they would receive the maximum assistance the government could offer.
“Kapag may balanse pa po kayo, ang Malasakit Center ang babayad dahil ang target po ng Malasakit ay zero-balance kung maari po (If you still have balance on your hospital bills, the Malasakit Center will pay and our target is zero-balance, if we can),” he said.
He said the DSWD had also committed to provide additional assistance to select patients and their families upon completing their assessment.
Go also vowed to help DOH and Gonzales who are presently pushing for the establishment of a new hospital in Mandaluyong City in Congress.
The senator from Davao City earlier urged the DOH to expand access to mental health care and psychosocial support services in the country as well as improve suicide awareness among overlooked demographic sectors, such as rural communities and the youth.