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The Black and White on Health: Bridging the Gap with Senator Loren Legarda

By: Marielle Siy

The anticipating audience inside UST Hospitals’s Benavides Cancer Institute Auditorium slowly came to a hush as guest speaker Senator Loren Legarda entered the spacious room. The seminar, entitled N’Rich: Boost Your Potentials, is part of the Nursing Week celebration held last November 19, 2010. It tackled contemporary health issues, including those involved in the field of healthcare.

After professing her awe and respect for the University of Santo Tomas as the oldest university in Asia, Sen. Legarda began by outlining the healthcare initiatives that she has proposed along with her colleagues in the senate with the intention of addressing the multifaceted concerns of the citizens and health sectors alike. Among these are the expansion of the coverage of health insurance, increase in the salary grade of health workers, and furthering the involvement of health maintenance organizations (HMO) in promoting the private sector’s participation in healthcare. Despite such measures, she lamented the lack of funds directed towards healthcare, further adding that “the core of any government […] should be meeting the health needs of our people.”

Having graduated as a mass communications student at the University of Manila during Marcos’ era, Sen. Legarda has since then proved her mettle as a journalist, an environmentalist, a political and civic leader, and a legislator. She has co-authored health-related laws like R.A. No. 9502 (Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008) and R.A. No. 9709 (Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Act of 2009).

The senator encouraged the College of Nursing to participate in helping to lobby for the passage of proposed bills that are primarily centered on providing quality healthcare for marginalized Filipino children and families. She continues to point out the salience of being involved both as a patient and as an environmental advocate in saying: “In trying to fill in the gap between caring for the environment, providing an adequate healthcare program for the Filipino people, and improving the state of our nursing profession in our country, I endear with you […] to bridge the gap between legislation and policy and actual themes of the Nursing profession in the country today.” Legarda stated that Nursing students have “a big role to play in trying to realize the dream of having a healthy, robust population” as future health care professionals.

By inculcating the value of service as the core of providing quality healthcare, she went on underscoring the importance of selfless commitment and compassion that Nursing graduates should keep in heart. “The task to ensure that all Filipinos have access to universal healthcare is not the duty of the government alone. As future nurses, bear in mind that you have a noble task at hand. Know what you can do best, and seek ways to be of service to your fellowmen,” Legarda said.

During the Question & Answer portion, many issues were raised by the audience apropos to issues like uncompensated nurse-volunteers working under a contractual basis, high monetary demands of affiliated government hospitals, and the overflow of unemployed Nursing graduates. On facing the current situation of job shortages that graduating seniors are confronted with today, the senator said, “Don’t be discouraged by the hurdles that you would encounter along the way. Use that instead to boost your potential in always trying to be the best at your craft. No great man, or woman, ever made history by being mediocre.” With these conclusive words, she graciously thanked her audience and, after a brief moment for picture taking with Dean Glenda Vargas, left as swiftly as she had come.

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