• Senator Pia Cayetano said there is a pressing need to address the gaps in the healthcare system
  • The government is expected to spend an estimated ₱2.17 trillion for the training and reintegration of medical professionals from 2020 to 2040
  • Cayetano said interviews must determine a person's motivation in applying for the government scholarship program

Senator Pia Cayetano said medical scholarships should prioritize applicants who intend to work in the Philippines, as the country is expected to spend about ₱2.17 trillion for the training and reintegration of healthcare professionals in the government service.

"The country has an obligation to educate its people but to educate them to the point that you'd become a doctor but practice in other countries. I genuinely feel that that is not fair to the Filipino taxpayers," Cayetano said on Monday, during a Senate inquiry on the status of human resources for health, CNN Philippines reported.

In her speech as chairperson of the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, Cayetano said there was a pressing need to address the gaps in the healthcare system. In particular, she mentioned Republic Act 11509 or the "Doktor Para sa Bayan Act," which she co-sponsored with its principal sponsor, Joel Villanueva.

Signed by former president Rodrigo Duterte in 2021, the new law provided scholarship slots for aspiring doctors to ensure that there will be at least one doctor for every municipality in the country.

"Why spend for your education if you will not be working here, right? But like I said, we will assist," Cayetano added.

According to the report, the Philippines is expected to spend an estimated ₱2.17 trillion for the medical professionals in the government service, including physicians, nurses, midwives, medical technologists, barangay health workers, and barangay nutrition scholars from 2020 to 2040.

Cayetano said preliminary interviews should determine a potential scholar's motivation in applying for the government scholarship program.

"We need to really find out and really have interviews with these students and ask if they will work in the Philippines, because the government will spend for your education as doctor, nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist. Otherwise, the government spent money for health workers to work in other countries," the lawmaker said.

"The scholarship should be prioritized for those who will serve, who will stay in the country," she added.

Cayetano, however, said the government should respect a person's right to explore better opportunities also.

"And, what we want to ensure here in the discussion is that we are mindful of their right to explore greener pastures, but we would really like the Philippines to be a pasture that they are also content and happy with. I think that is what our goal should really be," she stressed.

Cayetano added local governments should play a role in attracting healthcare workers to return home and work by providing them with benefits.

"I'd love to see that LGUs are now saying, 'Come to my province. Come home to my province because here, we take care of our doctors. We take care of our nurses. Here, we take care of our teachers. These are our benefits for them. We'll even erect a condominium with a swimming pool.' Whatever it is that entices them, because that is the gain. Why would they want to come back?" she stressed, the Inquirer reported.

Representation of a school classroom. Delta Works/Pixabay