Wednesday, March 19, 2014

If we spend P2.8 M for a PMA grad, then we should hike benefits of 'Pinoy MD' scholars

MANILA-Senator Ralph Recto today said government should hike its scholarship fund for medical students which at present is a tenth of what it spends to train professional military officers.
“If we are spending P2.8 million to produce one Philippine Military Academy graduate, then perhaps we should increase the scholarship grants we give to aspiring doctors,” Recto said.
For this year, government is allocating P57.5 million for the “Pinoy MD Program”, a scholarship fund the Department of Health administers.
In contrast, the Philippine Military Academy has a 2014 budget of P594 million, which will, however, go up to P775 million, once P175 million in Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund and P5 million in retirement and life insurance premiums are added to it.
“Perhaps we can use the PMA expenditures as guide in increasing our Pinoy MD fund beginning next year,” Recto said. 
“If we’re spending this much for training soldiers to be good in surgical strikes, then we might as well spend near that amount in training people who are good in surgery,” he said.
Recto said under the Pinoy MD program, a scholar receives P147,800 a year  - or an average of P12,333 a month -  in tuition assistance, book and living allowances, and for laboratory and other school fees.
With a semester’s tuition in some Metro Manila medical schools now costing as much as P120,000, then the assistance, though much appreciated, from the Pinoy MD program is only a fraction of what a student needs, Recto said.
In the PMA, a cadet, in addition to free education and board and lodging, gets a basic monthly pay of P27,425 plus P6,300 in allowances as a Probationary 2nd Lieutenant, “emoluments,” Recto stressed, “that the cadet fully deserves.”
From 2010 to 2013, the PMA got P2.438 billion in appropriations from the national government, while producing a total of 862 graduates, or at a per graduate cost of P2.8 million.
But if the expenses incurred by cadets who dropped out will be factored in, then the cost to taxpayers of producing one PMA graduate would go down to about P2.3 million, Recto  said.
“Hopefully this figure can inspire a readjustment of Pinoy MD Scholarship benefits.   The cost of training people who’ll keep us safe must not be far behind from what it costs to train the people who’ll keep us healthy,” he said.
Recto said “many bright students have the brains and the heart to become good doctors but poverty is what’s keeping them from realizing their dreams .”
“If we can only apply the same opportunities that the PMA gives to poor but deserving young men in our Pinoy MD program, then we will be creating a corps of doctors who will serve the people,” he said.
Recto said increasing the Pinoy MD budget, to accommodate more scholars who will be given bigger financial aid, will “create a PMA of a different kind, a Philippine Medical Academy, whose students are being trained, under government sponsorship, in different medical schools.”
“We need more doctors. Our population grows by two million a year; it also is aging. If that is the situation, then this nation must start a tradition of producing a ‘long white line,’” Recto said, referencing the white coats of doctors to the “long grey line” which PMA alumni and cadets are collectively referred to.
In 2010, there were only 2,682 government doctors to serve a population of 92.3 million, Recto said. 


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