Highlighting the need to provide proper health care for the growing number of senior citizens in the country, the leader of the Minority bloc at the House of Representatives on Thursday urged for the establishment of a national hospital that will cater to the elderly’s health needs.

“Filipinos are most vulnerable to health issues when they are very young and when they are very old, but while the country has the National Children’s Hospital to address the needs of the young, it does not have a counterpart for the nation’s close to nine million senior citizens,” House Minority Leader Benny Abante Jr. said after a visit to the National Center for Geriatric Health (NCGH) in San Miguel, Manila.

Abante who was instrumental in the establishment of the NCGH inaugurated by then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2010, said at present, the NCGH is just an “outpatient department” under the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center.

“Unfortunately, this hospital is not operational because of the absence of a law that allows for its operations,” Abante noted.

He said this is the reason why he is pushing for the swift passage of his House Bill 3939, which seeks to convert the NCGH into the National Geriatric Health and Research Institute (NCGHRI), establishing a fully-operational hospital that will cater to health services to the elderly.

Citing data from the Commission on Population and Development (CPD), Abante said 8.2 percent of the country’s 104.9 million citizens – or 8.6 million Filipinos – are aged 60 and older.

By 2030 to 2035, the percentage of elderly citizens is expected to hit 14 percent.

“Our population is aging, and we must work to develop infrastructure and institute policies that will enable us to properly care for the nation’s elderly. Thus, a fully-functional and operational hospital that focuses on geriatric health is necessary, given the growing number of senior citizens in our country,” Abante said.

“Given how much our senior citizens have contributed to our country, they deserve our care. Benefits like senior citizen discounts and the like are helpful, but we should not stop there. Steps must be taken to improve geriatric health services because healthcare is the top concern of our elderly,” he added.

If passed into law, HB 3939, or “The National Center for Geriatric Health and Research Institute Act,” will establish the NCGHRI, a 100-bed hospital that will be attached to the Department of Health (DOH).

Under the measure, not less than 40 percent of the NCGHRI’s hospital beds shall be allocated for indigent patients.

The NCGHRI shall, among others: equip, maintain, administer, and operate an integrated medical institution that specializes in geriatric health services; and provide and maintain affordable, quality, and timely hospital care through an efficient health service delivery system that prioritizes the need of the elderly.

The institution shall also coordinate the various efforts and activities of other government agencies and local government units for the purpose of achieving effective approaches to the delivery of geriatric health services.

As provided by HB 3939, funding for the NCGHRI shall be sourced from the DOH under the General Appropriations Act.

Aside from these funds, the NCGHRI will also have its own trust fund composed of contributions from taxes, donations, and income from its pay wards.

The proposed bill also provides that donations to NCGHRI shall be exempt from donor’s tax and will be considered an allowable deduction from the gross income of the donor consistent with the provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997. (PNA)