MANILA — A veteran lawmaker has filed a measure granting additional incentives and benefits to rural doctors.
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. said in his House Bill 5725 that rural doctors, in addition to other incentives granted under existing laws, shall be entitled to hazard allowance in an amount to be determined by the local health board of the local government unit (LGU) concerned.
They shall also be entitled to subsistence allowance which is equivalent to the meals they take in the course of their duty which shall be computed in accordance with prevailing circumstances as determined by the LGU concerned, Andaya said in his explanatory note.
The former budget secretary explained that rural relocation incentive should likewise be granted to doctors who are not original residents of the rural or remote area community, which they serve, in an amount to be determined by the local health board.
He pointed out that rural doctors shall also be granted continuing medical education in the form of tuition fee subsidy and stipends as well as isolation travel assistance for visiting physicians to provide medical services in eligible rural areas and isolated communities to be determined by the local health board.
“The grant of these financial incentives and benefits will attract, recruit and retain rural physicians across the country and make serving as a healthcare professional in the areas attractive and motivating,” Andaya said.
In pushing for the bill, Andaya said the lack of attractive financial incentive had discouraged many doctors from working in rural communities.
This, Andaya said, had resulted in the unequal distribution of health workforce, especially of doctors in the country.
The Bicolano solon said based on the study, “Assessment of factors influencing retention in the Philippine National Rural Physician Development Program,” only 10 percent of health professionals in the country are found in rural communities where more than majority of the people resides.
“Most physicians and other health works prefer to stay in urbanized areas where they can be given better compensation,” he stressed.
Andaya recalled that the program Doctors to the Barrios (DTBP) was launched by then Health Secretary Juan Flavier in 1993 as a respond to the perceived shortage of health personnel in remote areas.
“The program encouraged medical graduates to spend a couple of years of their professional practice in some of the country’s poorest communities where healthcare services are most needed,” Andaya said.
He added that after the prescribed period of two years, the doctors are given the option to be absorbed by the LGUs.
“Very few however chose to remain working in the rural areas due to lack of attractive financial incentives and because of poorly resourced facilities,” Andaya elaborated.
He said the recipient LGUs have failed to hire their own doctors and relied on the program for the provision of community physicians.
“As observed by the Department of Health (DOH), most LGUs were unable to match the compensation package offered by the DOH, thus very few DTBP doctors decided to stay with the community,” Andaya said.