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Bangsamoro region’s first medical school to rise in Cotabato City

Officials from the Department of Health, Cotabato Regional and Medical Center, and Cotabato State University pose for a photo opportunity after signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the establishment of the first-ever medical school in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). (Photo: Cotabato Regional and Medical Center)

COTABATO CITY (PIA) -- In a bid to address the increasing demands for doctors in the Bangsamoro region, the first-ever medical school will soon rise in this city.

Through the initiative of Bangsamoro government’s Ministry of Health (MOH), the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) and Cotabato State University (CSU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the medical school consortium project, which is unofficially named the CSU-CRMC College of Medicine on August 5.

DOH Undersecretary Abdullah Dumama Jr. delivers his message of support during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on August 5, 2023, for the establishment of the first-ever medical school in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Photo: Cotabato Regional and Medical Center)

During the signing of the MOU, Health Undersecretary Abdullah B. Dumama Jr. said its establishment is in accordance with the priority projects of the Department of Health (DOH) in addressing the demands for an increased number of doctors in the country.

“Ito po ay sagot natin sa kakulangan ng ating mga doctors dito sa lugar. Ang BARMM naman ay nandiyan, sabi nila, sila daw ang bahala sa pagpapaaral ng mga estudyante. Sure na po na meron tayong scholarship [This is the answer to the lack of doctors in the area. BARMM is there, they said; they are in charge of the students’ scholarships],” Dumama pointed out.

The school, once fully functional, will enjoy combined excellence from both government institutions: quality education from the CSU and quality health care from the CRMC.

Dumama also emphasized that the project is a collaborative partnership with other agencies, including the BARMM’s Ministry of Health, Department of Health, Commission on Higher Education, Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education, and the city government of Cotabato.

He said that with the project implementation, there will be a huge opportunity for the “poor but deserving students” who want to pursue their dream of becoming medical doctors and are committed to serving the people of Bangsamoro and Region XII.

The establishment of this medical school is also in support of Republic Act 11509, also known as the Doctor Para sa Bayan Law, signed on December 23, 2020 by former President Rodrigo Duterte.The law provides for the establishment of a medical scholarship and return service program for deserving students at state universities, colleges, or partner schools.

Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) Chief of Hospital Dr. Ishmael Dimaren underscores the importance of the establishment of the medical school to address the demands of doctors in the BARMM region during the MOU signing for the project at the CRMC. (Photo: Cotabato Regional and Medical Center)

Moreover, Dr. Ishmael Dimaren, CRMC chief of hospital, emphasized the importance of collaboration among different agencies to assist the government in addressing the shortage of physicians nationwide while also making primary healthcare more accessible in rural areas and underserved populations.

"CRMC is keen on pursuing this venture, which is very timely and relevant for the benefit of the people of Mindanao, especially in the BARMM," Dimaren said in a statement.

All parties have initially started discussing the medical school’s vision, mission, goals, and objectives, including the creation of core values, compliance with Commission on Higher Education policies and standards, and organizational structure, among others.

Both sides are also expected to meet monthly to keep abreast of the progress and developments as the proposed consortium project is slated to commence next academic year, subject to government approval.

This is the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center, where all the physical facilities for the proposed medical school, such as classrooms, laboratories, libraries, and medical equipment, will be located. (Photo: Cotabato Regional and Medical Center)

According to CRMC, at the initial stage, all physical facilities such as classrooms, laboratories, libraries, and medical equipment will be located at CRMC.

Previously, MOH Minister Dr. Rizaldy Piang attended a  benchmarking activity in Cebu City on May 30. 

Piang explained that the conduct of the activity was to learn from the experiences and best practices of Cebu Normal University and the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VCMMC) in establishing a medical school.

"The learning experiences hopefully will help BARMM establish a medical school in the BARMM region," Piang said in a statement.

Meanwhile, several lawmakers from the  Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) have also filed a measure that would grant medical scholarships and return service programs to aspiring doctors, as well as require them to serve in the Bangsamoro region for at least two years.

The BTA Parliament Bill No. 204, also known as the Bangsamoro Medical Scholarship Act of 2022, aims to address the scarcity of medical professionals and ensure that the Bangsamoro people have access to the best healthcare services.

Through the proposed bill authored by Members of Parliament Eddie Alih, Mohagher Iqbal, and Zul Qarneyn Abas, the region is bent on producing more competent, committed, and community-oriented medical physicians to serve in the region and neighboring towns.

Under the measure, the scholarship is open to the Bangsamoro people who are not beneficiaries of any scholarship programs, including health professionals working in government offices, children and dependents of BARMM employees, barangay health workers, traditional birth attendants, and families of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

The scholars are obliged to serve the region once they have completed their degrees and obtained their licenses as physicians.

Once approved, the Bangsamoro Medical Scholarship Program will cover 100% of the scholar's expenses.

As of April 2020, BARMM had only one doctor for every 12,000 residents. (LTB -- PIA Cotabato City)

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Catherine Apelacio

Information Officer III

Region 12

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