Press Release
November 17, 2012

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago
(Keynote speech at the annual convention of the Philippine Academy of Medical Specialists, Inc.
on 17 November 2012 at Diamond Hotel.)

While the Senate is embroiled in the sin tax bill and the national budget, I believe it is worthwhile to take a good look at a pending bill - SBN 3137, "An act regulating the education and licensure of physicians and the practice of medicine in the Philippines." We hope that the Senate can end the period of interpellation, and start the period of amendments on this bill, after the Christmas break, and before the campaign break that begins in February.

I urge you to give me an amendment paper during this period, so that together we can improve the bill as crafted by the committee on civil service and government reorganization. It is too late and will only produce further delay, if this bill is sent to the committee on health, where it should have been sent in the first place.

In general, I shall propose that the philosophy of the bill should be based on the concept of primary health care, and on community medicine. As a developing nation, our country needs to emphasize that medicine should be both community-based and non-specialty oriented. We need to address the lack of medical personnel in rural areas, and in communities that are remote or otherwise inaccessible.

We need a new medical curriculum that goes beyond the traditional curriculum of basic health services and clinical services, and merely subsumes primary health care and community medicine under the traditional subjects of so-called "public health" or "family medicine." We already have templates for what I shall call the smart medical curriculum.

One example is the UP college of medicine, which began with the step-ladder approach, and then evolved the organ system-approach. And today, UP college of medicine proudly includes in its curriculum two new units that serve as an exemplar to all colleges of medicine in the country. They are:

1. Community-Oriented Medicine Unit, and
2. Social Medicine Unit

These smart units embody transformative medicine. UP Manila has recently adopted this transformative education framework to prepare graduates for deployment throughout our archipelago.

I am concerned that the bill seeks the integration of the medical professions under one national Accredited Professional Organization of Physicians, which seems to be nothing more than the existing Philippine Medical Association with a facelift. Instead of inclusion, I think we should focus on more overwhelming problems of healthcare delivery, such as:

1. Inaccessibility and prohibition acts of healthcare;
2. Inequitable distribution of physicians, and
3. Skewed ratio of generalists and specialists.

Society always needs the specialties like surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics. But we in the Philippines need even more the community physicians to serve the ever-growing population of the marginalized Filipino patients in the rural and underprivileged areas.

My amendment paper will seek to reflect the voices of those outside the hospital setting - namely, community doctors, municipal health officers, doctors from health NGOs, and the distinguished members of PAMS.

I respectfully invite you to participate with me in this transformative undertaking.

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