House approves bill granting medical scholarships

The House of Representatives passed on third and final reading House Bill 6571 which seeks to provide scholarships to students aspiring to become doctors.

The approved Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program Act aims to help deserving students pursue medical education and eventually render services in government hospitals or government public health offices.

The bill aims not only to help the youth achieve their dream of becoming a doctor but also address the shortage of physicians in the country, thereby promoting and protecting the health needs of the Filipinos especially those in the far-flung areas.

The bill mandates the establishment of a Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program in state universities and colleges (SUCs) or in private higher education institutions (PHEIs) in regions where there are no SUCs offering medicine course.

The scholarship program shall accept at least one scholar from each municipality throughout the country.

The total number of scholars per province or municipality shall depend on the number of government physicians needed for each province or municipality, as determined by the Department of Health (DOH).

The Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program grants the following benefits: Free tuition and other school 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 post-graduate internship; Medical board review fees; Annual medical insurance; and Other education-related miscellaneous subsistence or living allowances.

Deserving students accepted to the scholarship program shall be subject to certain conditions which include: 1) Must carry the full load of subjects prescribed per semester by the SUC or PHEI, and shall, under no circumstance, drop a course which will result in underloading; 2) Must finish the entire Doctor of Medicine program in the prescribed time frame in the SUC or PHEI where the scholar is enrolled in, subject to the retention policies of the SUC of PHEI; 3) Must undertake post-graduate internship in a DOH-accredited public health facility or hospital upon graduation from a four-year Doctor of Medicine program, subject to the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges (APMC) Intern Matching Program; 4) Must take the board examination within a maximum period of one year after completion of an internship program which may be a post-graduate internship program for scholars under a four-year Doctor of Medicine program or after completion of internship as a fifth-year medical student for scholars under a five-year Doctor of Medicine program; and 5) Must serve in a government public health office or government hospital in the scholar's hometown or, in the absence of a need thereat, in any municipality within the scholar's home province, or in any underserved municipality closest to the scholar's hometown in any province determined by the DOH as a priority area.

The scholar shall lose his scholarship and repay the full cost of scholarship and related benefits received under the following circumstances: If the scholar accepts another scholarship from other government or private agencies or entities while enjoying the benefits under this Act; If the scholar fails in 40 percent of the subjects or fails to meet the academic requirements of the SUCs of PHEIs or to complete the course within the prescribed period without valid cause as may be determined by the SUC or PHEI, CHED or the DOH; If the scholar fails to pass the licensure examination for physicians for the second time; and If the scholar commits behavioral misconduct in a manner that would bring significant damage to the HEI, government institution concerned, persons, and the community.

Upon passing the Physician Licensure Examination (PLE) administered by the Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC), the scholar shall be integrated into the public health and medical service system, through the DOH, with the appropriate rank and salary and related benefits.

The mandatory return service upon integration into the public health and medical service system under this Act shall be a period equivalent to at least eight years within 10 years for those who have availed a four-year program, and 12 years for those who availed of a five-year program, upon passing the licensure examination for physicians, which shall be part of the mandatory service and integration into the public health and medical service system.

In the event that a physician who has availed of the Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program fails or refuses to serve in a government hospital or any local health office in the scholar's hometown or in any underserved municipality in any province, he/she shall be required to pay twice the full cost of the scholarship including other benefits and expenses incurred by reason of participation in the scholarship program.

In case of non-payment, the PRC shall deny the renewal of the physician's license.

Authors of the bill are Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo FariAas, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, and Reps. Ann Hofer, Angelina Tan, Vilma Santos-Recto, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Salvador Belaro Jr., Alfredo Vargas, John Marvin Nieto, Edward Vera-Perez Maceda, Eric Olivarez, Juan Pablo Bondoc, Karlo Alexei Nograles, France Castro, Maximo Rodriguez, Jr., Elisa Kho, Julieta Cortuna, Edwin Ong, Carlito Marquez, Renato Unico Jr., Antonio Tinio, Jocelyn Limkaichong, Raul Tupas, Jose Enrique Garcia III, Celso Lobregat, Rosemarie Arenas, Jose Tejada, Leopoldo Bataoil, Arlene Arcillas, Leo Rafael Cueva, Lorna Bautista-Bandigan, Joey Sarte Salceda, Ben Evardone, Ma. Lucille Nava, Manuel Jose Dalipe, Evelina Escudero, Scott Davie Lanete, Estrellita Suansing, Mark Go, Dennis Laogan, Virgilio Lacson, Len Alonte, Ana Cristina Siquian-Go, Ron Salo, and Sherwin Tugna.

Source: House of Representatives

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