By Ali G. Macabalang
While Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim has admitted absence of “major success” to harp about yet in their three-year transitional governance, indigent constituents are praises for the benefits they continue to receive from the fledgling administration’s special initiatives, including the Ayudang Medikal mula sa Bangsamoro Government (AMBAG) Program
In a recent report from the Bureau of Public Information (BPI), Ebrahim said the program has already covered a total of 8,552 Bangsamoro indigents since its launch in November 2019 or just roughly 12 months.
The Office of the Chief Minister (OCM), which administers the special program, has transferred some P73-million to 11 partner hospitals in the region to subsidize the medical expenses of constituent patients lacking PhilHealth and other health insurance policies, the BPI said.
Citing Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) records, the OCM said that 53% of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) populace is indigent and that half of the constituent families lack health insurances.
The inadequacy has been demonstrated in the continuing influx of pleas for financial aids from indigent constituents for their patients’ confinement needs to include medicines, dialysis, implant, laboratory, radiation therapy, medical and assistive devices, transplant, rehabilitative therapy, and surgical supplies, among others, the OCM said.
Recorded requests came from residents of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces, the cities of Marawi, Cotabato and Lamitan and 63 barangays in North Cotabato, which now constitute the BARMM, the OCM said.
One of the beneficiary-indigents, Pelagio Ado, a 51-year old traffic enforcer of South Upi, Maguindanao, was featured recently by the BPI in a report narrating how the AMBAG program made the difference for him and his family after he suffered fractures in the neck and left hip from a road accident on Aug. 18, 2019.
Ado was confined at the Datu Blah District Hospital in Nuro Upi, Maguindanao, where attending physicians required major surgical and implant operations that would cost no less than P125,000, something Ado’s family could never raise.
The municipal government of South Upi, being the employer of Ado, donated P75,000, and the patient’s family had sought assistance for the remaining P50,000, which the OCM through the AMBAG program readily provided, said the BPI.
“Maraming maraming salamat po sa AMBAG ng Bangsamoro. Dahil sa tulong nito ay malamang na namatay ako o nagging gulay (paralyzed),” Ado was quoted as saying in a BPI news story.
After its launch last year, the OCM has embarked on widening the AMBAG program’s reach by adding more local partner hospitals to ensure that indigent Bangsamoro and non-Moro residents receive necessary medical assistance.
“Malayo na ang narating ng AMBAG ngunit malayo pa ang ating inaasam na maaabot nito lalo na sa mga kababayan nating patuloy na nahihirapan sa mga bayarin sa ospital o ano pa mang pangangailangang medikal,” Ebrahim said.
Officials of the AMBAG program were trying to “forge partnerships with additional hospitals in Regions 9 and 12, notably those in North Cotabato, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Sibugay, General Santos City, and even in Manila, the BPI said.
In a recent interview with the Philippine Muslim Today, a key official in the BARMM cabinet disclosed that the city hall of Zamboanga had prevented its constituent hospitals from becoming partner for AMBAG program.
Many residents of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi would prefer confinement in Zamboanga hospitals due to availability of more medical facilities, the BARMM official said.
“Unfortunately, the Zamboanga City hall has discouraged its component hospitals to receive AMBAG program funds for patients from BASULTA,” the official said. (AGM)