Deserving students may now receive medical scholarships and render return service under a new law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) 11509, also known as the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act, on Dec. 23, 2020 to establish a Medical Scholarship and Return Service (MSRS) program for deserving students in state universities and colleges (SUCs) or in partner private higher education institutions (PHEIs) in regions where no SUCs offer a medical course.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) may designate more than one partner HEI in the region, including those where existing SUCs offer the Doctor of Medicine (MD) program as deemed necessary, upon consultation with the Department of Health (DOH).
Qualified applicants from municipalities without government physicians will be prioritized in the allocation of scholarship slots to ensure the assignment of at least one doctor for every municipality in the country.
Under the new law, the MSRS program will be made available to deserving Filipino students who want to pursue an MD degree.
Student financial assistance for the MSRS program will include free tuition and other fees; allowance for prescribed books, supplies, and equipment; clothing or uniform allowance; allowance for dormitory or boarding house accommodation; transportation allowance; internship fees, including financial assistance during the mandatory internship; medical board review fees; licensure fees; annual medical insurance; and other education-related miscellaneous subsistence or living allowances.
In signing RA 11509, Duterte recognized the policy of the state to protect and promote the people’s right to health through the formulation and implementation of policies and strategies for the appropriate generation, recruitment, retraining, regulation, retention, and reassessment of the health workforce, making it more attuned to the needs of the population.
“It is also the declared policy of the state to promote social justice by expanding access to quality education and creating opportunities for underprivileged individuals,” the law read.
Qualifications and conditions
To qualify for the MSRS program, an applicant must be a Filipino citizen residing in the Philippines and must be a graduating student or a graduate of an appropriate undergraduate program identified as a prerequisite for an MD degree, from any HEI duly recognized by the CHED, including a direct entrant to the Integrated Liberal Arts and Medicine (Intarmed).
Deserving incoming second-year medical students and those in the higher year levels of the MD program will also be covered under the act, so long as they have complied with the academic requirements and retention policies of the school in the past terms preceding their scholarship application.
An applicant must also have passed the entrance examinations and complied with other related requirements for admission into an MD degree in the SUC or PHEI where the scholar intends to enroll, as well as the other requirements of the CHED and the DOH and obtained a National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) score mandated by CHED and required by the SUC or PHEI where the student intends to enroll.
Deserving students must sign an agreement stating the terms and conditions of the scholarship on a form prescribed by the CHED and DOH; carry the full load of subjects prescribed per semester by the SUC or PHEI, and must not under any circumstance drop a course.
They must also finish the entire MD program within the prescribed time frame of the SUC or the PHEI where the scholar is enrolled subject to its retention policies.
Before actual enrollment in the first semester as a scholar, deserving students accepted to the MSRS program may be allowed to defer enrollment or file a leave of absence if they have valid and justifiable reasons.
They must also undertake the mandatory internship in the SUC’s or PHEI’s base hospital upon graduation from the MD program for scholars under a four-year program or on the last year of the program for scholars under a five-year program.
In case no more slots are available in the SUC or PHEI base hospital, the mandatory internship program must be undertaken in a DOH-accredited public health facility or hospital or any accredited government health facility or hospital, subject to compliance with the requirements of the association that credits an internship program.
They must also take the board examination within a maximum period of one year after completion of the mandatory internship program and render a return service.
The scholar who fails to pass the licensure examination within one year after graduation and completion of the mandatory internship and other academic requirements must shoulder all the necessary expenses for the succeeding professional licensure examinations.
Scholars may also be disqualified for several circumstances.
Meanwhile, physicians who availed of the MSRS program but fail or refuse to comply with the mandatory return service and integration will be required to pay two times the full cost of the scholarship, including other benefits and expenses incurred by the reason of participation in the program.
To address the scarcity of doctors in the country, the CHED, in coordination with the DOH, will ensure that each region will have at least one medical school.
The CHED must streamline the requirements for the applications for authority to offer the MD program.
The CHED and DOH must also issue the appropriate guidelines within 60 days from the effectivity of the act to facilitate the partnership between SUCs and DOH hospitals with a view of increasing the number of medical schools throughout the country with one region having at least one state-operated medical school.
Within three years from the effectivity of the act, there must be a state-operated medical school in at least half of the regions with no such school.
Within five years, there must be at least one state-operated medical school in each region in the country.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DOH, and local government units (LGUs) where applicable must ensure that all scholars required to render return service under this act must be appointed to appropriate plantilla positions commensurate to their merit and fitness.
Every five years from the effectivity of the act, the DOH and CHED must assess the shortage of health workers in the country against the ideal standards and the National Health Human Resource Master Plan created under Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act and upon consultation with participating SUCs and PHEIS, the DBM and the PRC.
They must then determine the number and geographical allocation of scholars to be admitted every school year allocating at least one scholarship slot in municipalities without government physicians.
In determining the allocation quota of the scholars to be admitted to the program, priority is given to regions with low doctor-to-population ratios.
The DOH must also submit to Congress the National Health Human Resource Master Plan and any updates to ensure an adequate number of competent human resources for health for the entire country.
Within 120 days from the effectivity of this act, the CHED and the DOH and other stakeholders formulate and issue the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to fully carry out the provisions of the act.
The absence of an IRR must not affect the effectivity of this act and the grant of the benefit.
Source: Philippines News agency