Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr OKs creation of regional specialty hubs

2023 August 29

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has signed a law establishing specialty centers in hospitals under the direct supervision and control of the Department of Health (DOH), Malacañang announced Tuesday.

Republic Act (RA) 11959 or the Regional Specialty Centers Act, inked by Marcos on Aug. 24, mandates the DOH to establish specialty centers in its hospitals in every region, as well as in government-owned or -controlled corporation (GOCC) specialty hospitals.

The DOH shall prioritize facilities for 17 specialties – cancer care; cardiovascular care; lung care; renal care and kidney transplant; brain and spine care; trauma care; burn care; orthopedic care; physical rehabilitation medicine; infectious disease and tropical medicine; toxicology; mental health; geriatric care; neonatal care; dermatology care; ear, nose and throat care; and eye care.

At least one center shall be established in every region within five years upon the enactment of RA 11959.

In a statement, Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said the law was signed as part of the Marcos administration’s efforts to establish and institutionalize health care centers in the region, ensuring “accessible and affordable” health care services for all.

Under RA 11959, the DOH is designated to categorize the level of service capability of the specialty centers as National Specialty Centers (NSCs), Advanced Comprehensive Specialty Centers (ACSCs), and Basic Comprehensive Specialty Centers (BCSCs) under the Philippine Health Facility Development Plan.

Garafil said the establishment of specialty centers shall adhere to the guidelines set by the DOH on planning and prioritizing health facilities based on the upgrading of hospitals, evidence of the health needs and demands, and service capability of hospitals and geographic or physical access.

“The appropriate level of specialized health care provider role in the continuum of care, the availability of competent health human resources for specialized health care, and the operational and financial performance of the DOH facilities should also be considered in setting up specialty centers,” she said.

“Implementing rules and regulations of the law shall be promulgated by the DOH, in consultation with the NSCs, DOH hospitals and other stakeholders, within 60 days from the effectivity of the law.”

RA 11959 takes effect 15 days from its publication in the Official Gazette, or in a newspaper of general circulation.

It is a consolidation of Senate Bill 2212 and House Bill 7751 subjected to a bicameral conference committee meeting whose report was adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives on May 31, 2023.

Malacañang has yet to release a copy of the new law.

‘Decisive leap’ to accessibility

House Committee on Health chairperson Ciriaco Gato Jr. lauded the signing into law of the Regional Specialty Centers Act as a “decisive leap” to ensure accessibility of health facilities across the “continuum of care” in the country.

He said the new law brings specialty healthcare services closer to Filipinos, thus “breaking down barriers and revolutionizing healthcare access”.

“The passage of the Act establishing specialty centers in DOH (Department of Health) hospitals in the country is a testament to our commitment to providing specialized, top-tier healthcare to every individual. Our gratitude to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for recognizing the importance of this legislation,” Gato said on Tuesday.

Gato, who is one of the principal authors of the law, said that he is particularly elated with the inclusion of Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) centers in the law.

“We fought tooth and nail for the inclusion of ENT centers in this act. As an ENT surgeon, I have seen how a simple ear infection resulting from minor issues can escalate into something serious due to lack of accessible specialized care,” he said.

He said the establishment of specialty centers in every region is a “dream come true” for far-flung provinces, citing Batanes as an example.

“My fellow Ivatans will no longer need to travel to Manila for treatment at specialty centers like the Philippine Heart Center,” Gato said.

Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos (PNA)