Manila starts free-meds program for poor

MANILA Mayor Joseph E. Estrada recently signed a memorandum of agreement (Moa) with top officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), its regional office and the city’s six district hospitals for the intensified implementation of “Lingap at Gabay para sa May Sakit” (Lingap sa Masa) project.

This initiative is in line with President Duterte’s decree to give medicines to indigents and vulnerable population from the National Capital Region (NCR) pro bono.

“For me, ‘Lingap sa Masa’ health care is for the people, it belongs to the people,” the local chief executive said, while citing its protection, especially for the poor patients, from unacceptable risks of harm and danger of inability to buy medicines.

He expressed gratitude to Duterte for allocating P1 billion to cover free medicines for in- and out-patients in selected state-owned hospitals.


“The program is a testament of the great compassion [the] President has for the poor,” the mayor noted. “We, in Manila, will be blessed by the love and compassion of the Duterte administration.”

As a social-protection arm of the government, the DSWD, through its crisis intervention unit (CIU), provides the necessary help to the program’s beneficiaries.

DSWD Officer in Charge (OIC) Secretary Emmanuel A. Leyco explained that Lingap sa Masa will be implemented in identified hospitals, where patients needing prescription drugs will be assessed and given assistance via the issuance of guarantee letters for the purchase of medicines from hospital pharmacies or partner drugstores.

Estrada lauded this because the free medicines will be availed themselves of immediately right at the hospitals, especially in cases of emergency.

What’s more interesting about the project is that it provides free medical check-up, aside from the supply of medication, added DSWD-NCR CIU Head Marlene Guzman.

Qualified beneficiaries are families or individuals who are indigent, vulnerable or disadvantaged; those included on the DSWD list of informal sector and poor; as well as people in crisis situation based on assessment of social workers.

Also eligible are employees and contract service workers of government in crisis situation; and dependents of soldiers and police officers killed or wounded in line of duty.

This program, however, is distinct and separate from the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS), Leyco reiterated.

“Thus, any patient who has received medical assistance for the same purpose under AICS will not be eligible under the Lingap sa Masa program, and vice-versa,” he stressed.

The deal that aims to provide free medicines to indigents and needy government employees was forged at the Manila City Hall by Estrada, Leyco, Guzman and DSWD-NCR Regional Director Vincent Andrew T. Leyson.

Joining them were Dr. Regina Socorro L. Bagsic, consultant on hospital administration and service; Dr. Rachael S. Marinas,  OIC medical director (MD) of Ospital ng Maynila; Dr. Merle D. Sacdalan, OIC-MD of Justice Jose Abad Santos General Hospital; Dr. Ma. Luisa D. Aquino, OIC director of Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center; Dr. Clara C. Reyes, OIC director of Santa Ana Hospital; Dr. Isaias R. Cando, OIC director of Ospital ng Tondo; Dr. Leonora P. Pascual, OIC director of Ospital ng Sampaloc; and Tommy Co, consultant.

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Roderick L. Abad graduated from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, with a degree course in Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication. He has 12 years of journalism experience, starting as a Special Features Writer in a major daily newspaper. In 2006, he moved to the BusinessMirror in the same capacity and, eventually, became a beat reporter. To his credit, he was a finalist in the 2011 Holcim Journalism Awards for Sustainable Construction and the 2013 Lasallian Scholarum Awards. He remains affiliated with the BusinessMirror as a contributor.