The House of Representatives on Monday overwhelmingly approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to grant full scholarships to deserving medical students to address the shortage of doctors in the country.
With 245 affirmative votes, no negative vote, and no abstention, the lower chamber passed House Bill 6756, which mandates the establishment of a medical scholarship and return service program for deserving students in state universities and colleges (SUCs) or in private higher education institutions (PHEIs) in regions where none of the SUCs are offering a medical course.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, one of the bill’s authors, said the proposal is the answer to the lack of doctors in rural areas.
“It will open the opportunity for poor but deserving students to pursue a degree in medicine and serve their communities in the countryside,” Rodriguez said.
He said the measure would also be the answer to the lack of physicians in areas hit by pandemic like the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) since scholarship recipients could be asked to serve in hot spots.
Under the bill, at least one scholar from each municipality in the country shall be accepted. If there is no qualified applicant from a certain municipality, another qualified applicant shall be considered.
The financial assistance granted to scholars includes free tuition and other school fees; an allowance for prescribed books, supplies and equipment; clothing allowance; dormitory allowance; transportation allowance; internship fees; medical board review fees; and annual medical insurance; among others.
The mandatory return service upon integration into the public health and medical service system shall be for at least four to six years for those who have availed of a four-year program, and seven years for those who have availed of the five-year program.
A medical student may lose the scholarship and shall pay the full cost of the scholarship and related benefits if he or she accepts another scholarship; fails to meet the academic requirements, or fails to pass the licensure examination for the second time.
A medical student who fails or refuses to serve in a government hospital or any local health office in the scholar’s hometown or any underserved municipality shall be required to pay twice the full cost of the scholarship including other benefits and expenses incurred.
In case of non-payment, the PRC shall deny the renewal of the physician’s license. (PNA)