During the launch of the country’s 135th Malasakit Center at the Basilan General Hospital (BGH) in Isabela City, Basilan on Saturday, August 14, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go reaffirmed the Duterte administration’s commitment to improve access to quality, affordable health care especially in far-flung and underserved communities.
This is the first Malasakit Center in the province of Basilan and seventh in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, after the Maguindanao Provincial Hospital and Cotabato Sanitarium in Maguindanao; Sulu Provincial Hospital in Jolo; Datu Halun Sakilan Memorial Hospital in Tawi-Tawi; Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City; and Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in Cotabato City.
“Kumpleto na po ang Malasakit Centers sa ZamBaSulTa. Mula sa araw na ito, may dalawa na sa Zamboanga City. Mayroon din sa Jolo at Tawi-Tawi na personal kong dinaluhan. Ngayon, nandito ako para itupad ang ipinangako ko kay Governor (Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman) at sa mga tao ng Basilan,” said Go.
Isabela City is administratively part of Zamboanga Peninsula Region while the rest of the island province is under the BARMM.
Go personally attended the launch of another Malasakit center later that day at the Labuan General Hospital in Zamboanga City where he also extended aid to local market vendors and transport workers. This marks the 136th Malasakit Center nationwide.
In his speech in Basilan, the Senator first extended his congratulations to the BGH on the inauguration of their new main building held that morning. He thanked them for their dedication in the frontlines as the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic.
He pointed out that many public hospitals are treating a disproportionate share of low-income patients, and expressed hope that the new Malasakit center would allow the BGH to provide more care in their community, particularly to the indigent and other groups who cannot afford medical services.
“Ito ang pinakaunang batas na isinulong ko nang naging senador ako nung 2019. Ang Malasakit Center ay para sa mga poor at indigent patients. Wala itong pinipili. Karapatan niyo bilang Pilipino ang maka-avail ng serbisyo nito,” he continued.
The Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop which streamlines the provision of medical assistance by bringing the relevant government agencies under one roof, namely the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
The center’s primary aim is to help reduce a patients’ hospital bill to the lowest possible amount by covering various patient services and expenses through the existing medical assistance programs which are now accessible in a one-stop shop. Go authored and sponsored the bill that became Republic Act No. 11463, also known as the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019.
“Huwag kayong mag-alala. Magsabi lang kayo kung may kailangan kayo. Nandito kami ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte, handang makinig at tumulong. Sanay akong makipaglaban sa Senado… ‘di ako titigil na ipaglaban ang kapakanan niyo, lalung-lalo na ang mga mahihirap,” said Go.
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, he reassured that he is focused on making sure that the funding for hospitals and health workers will be sufficiently provided and spent as intended. Go vowed to continue to push for additional funds and support policies that will ensure local health systems and health workers have the resources they need to deliver life-saving care to their communities.
“Hindi nila alam kung anong nangyayari dahil hindi naman sila bumababa sa mga mahihirap. Ako, alam ko ang mga problema. Ba’t hindi ko ipaglalaban ang mga ospital eh umaabot ng 400 percent ang occupancy rate! Paano gagaling ang mga pasyente kung ganyan ang sitwasyon? Ngayon na nasa pandemya tayo, we should invest more in our healthcare,” he stressed.
The Senator also promised to work with members of Congress to push for the upgrading and conversion of the BGH into a medical center. He likewise pledged to reach out to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases and personally request for additional vaccine supplies as well as further assistance so the province can improve its COVID-19 response and prevention capabilities.
In the end, Go reminded all eligible residents of the province to get vaccinated so they can reduce their risk of developing severe symptoms and being hospitalized. He further warned that a significant majority of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are from the unvaccinated population.
“Mga kapatid ko, may isa nalang kaming pakiusap ni Pangulong Duterte sa inyo. May 42 million vaccines na ang dumating sa bansa kaya magpabakuna kayo kung nasa priority list kayo. Ayon sa pag-aaral, out of 11 million na nabakunahan, wala pang 1,000 ang nagkasakit ng COVID-19. Nasa mga numero na epektibo ang mga bakuna,” said Go.
“Siyempre, kailangan pa din ang disiplina at kooperasyon ng bawat isa. Huwag maging kumpiyansa para hindi kayo magaya sa Maynila. Maganda na ang momentum pero dahil dumating ang Delta variant ay nagsara ulit sila. Kaya ‘wag kayo matakot sa bakuna. Matakot kayo sa COVID-19 dahil nakakamatay ito,” he appealed.
Following the ceremony, the Senator’s team distributed meals, food packs, vitamins, masks and face shields to a total of 487 frontline medical workers and 48 indigent patients.
Go’s team provided select medical frontliners new pairs of shoes while others were given bicycles. Some also received computer tablets which their children can use for their education.
In addition, the DSWD distributed financial assistance to indigent patients and 297 rank-and-file hospital employees, including janitors and security guards.
Go expressed his gratitude to the many individuals who worked together to provide the people of Basilan with better healthcare services. He specifically thanked Deputy Speaker and Representative Mujiv Hataman, Governor Hataman-Salliman, Vice Governor Yusop Alano, Mayor Sitti Hataman and Vice Mayor Jhul Salliman.
As Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, he supported the funding for the construction of a drainage canal in Barangay Tabuk, footbridge in Barangay Panigayan, and multi-purpose halls in Barangays Lanote and Cabun Bata in Isabela City.
Go also supported other infrastructure initiatives throughout the province, including the improvement of a children’s park in Mohammad Ajul and public parks in Akbar and Tipo-Tipo; construction of multi-purpose halls in Lamitan and Mohammad Ajul; construction of a water system in Tabuan Lasa; construction of a seawall in Hadji Muhtamad; rehabilitation of the evacuation center in Sumisip; rehabilitation of the public market in Maluso; and concreting of existing roads in Al-Barka, among others.