COMMISSION on Higher Education (Ched) Chairman Prospero De Vera III credited the opening of the Doctor of Medicine at the Cebu Normal University-Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (CNU-VSMMC) to the constant follow-up made by Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III to cut the delay in materializing the program amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a press briefing on Monday, May 24, 2021, De Vera said Sotto’s immense contribution in the decision of Ched to approve the proposal to make the CNU as the first state university in the country to offer the medicine course under Republic Act (RA) 11509, or the Doctor Para sa Bayan Law.
“Personally, I give credit to Senate President Tito Sotto. Sotto made sure that the Doctor of Medicine program of CNU and Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center would get the approval from the Ched en banc,” De Vera.
He further said that Sotto was “really relentless in asking me the causes in the delay for the approval.”
Sotto shepherded the passage of the bill that created RA 11509, which was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 23, 2020.
The law mandates the establishment of a Medical Scholarship and Return Service program for deserving students at state colleges and universities or in partnership with private higher education institutions in regions where no medical course has been offered.
Sotto, for his part, said poor students who want to join the country’s medical sector, especially those in Visayas, would soon get the chance to pursue their dreams of becoming doctors.
Sotto, principal author of the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act, said the Ched en banc last May 11 gave the go signal to the CNU-VSMMC College of Medicine consortium to begin accepting students for the coming academic year 2021-2022.
“Being the principal author of the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act, I am both elated and excited that my efforts and those of my colleagues in the Senate to increase the number of doctors in underserved areas are already bearing fruit. Nakakataba po ng puso na isipin na tayo ay nakatulong na mabigyan ng pagkakataon ang ating mga aspiring doctors na matupad na ang kanilang mga pangarap,” Sotto said.
Sotto said the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the weaknesses of the country’s health care system, particularly the shortage of doctors in underserved areas and far-flung local governments.
Addressing the gap
RA 11509 seeks to address the gap between urban and rural areas in terms of presence of government doctors.
The law made CNU, in partnership with VSMMC, as the first state-funded institution of higher learning to offer a medicine course to poor yet deserving students in Cebu and Central Visayas.
Graduates will be required to render four years of service in underserved communities under the “return of service agreement.”
Sotto, a Cebuano by origin, has been supporting the Department of Health-funded regional hospital in terms of giving free medical care to Visayas and Mindanao patients admitted in the Level 3 medical center.
De Vera also said that Ched will give CNU-VSMMC a grant of P25 to P35 million to jumpstart the acquisition of equipment for the medicine program.
Expected to start in the August opening of classes this year, CNU president Filomena Dayagbil said the Doctor of Medicine program will begin with one section of 40 students.
Dayagbil said after announcing the program last week, many students who wish to pursue their dream to become a doctor have inquired with them about the admission procedure.