UPGRADED. Davao Occidental Rep. Lorna Bautista-Bandigan (left) and Governor Claude Bautista (2nd from left) prepare the time capsule of the proposed medical center in Malita, Davao Occidental in this photo taken in July 2018. The medical center has been upgraded to a general hospital following the Senate's approval on Monday (May 31, 2021) to appropriate funds for its full operation starting 2022. (Photo by Marivic F. Hubac)

DIGOS CITY – Davao Occidental Rep. Lorna Bautista-Bandigan expressed elation over the support of Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon for the bill establishing the Davao Occidental General Hospital as the Senate unanimously approved its version on third reading on Monday.

Bandigan, who is the author of the counterpart House of Representatives Bill 7321, said the establishment of the general hospital would complement and amplify the effectiveness of the province’s health system by providing continuous delivery of medical services for acute and complex medical conditions of local patients and those from neighboring provinces who want to avail themselves of its services.

Senate Bill (SB) 1616 hurdled the stringent deliberation during the second reading, which is the most crucial part of the process, through the support of Go and Drilon who both proposed that the regular funding for its operational expenses be reflected beginning in the 2022 national budget.

“It must be done, otherwise the operation will be hanging in the air without the corresponding budget allocation to fund its day-to-day operation,” Drilon said.

Meanwhile, Go, chairperson of the Senate’s health committee, said the establishment of the Davao Occidental General Hospital is long overdue and its budget must be addressed at the soonest possible time since residents have to travel more than 200 km. from the province to Davao City for needed medical attention.

Echoing Go’s statement, Bandigan said it takes three to four hours of land travel before residents of the province could avail themselves of the services of tertiary hospitals that are located in Davao City.

She lauded Go and Drilon for uniting in pushing for the approval of SB 1616 so that the dream of Davao Occidental residents to have a decent and reliable general hospital could be realized.

The hospital is currently under construction in Barangay Lacaron in Malita town, the capital of the province.

Marivic Hubac, chief of staff of Bandigan’s congressional office, said the construction of the Davao Occidental General Hospital started in 2020 with a budget of PHP200 million from the Department of Health (DOH).

Expected to be operational in the first or second quarter of 2022, it will be a 100 bed-capacity hospital with more units to be added annually to increase its occupancy and services.

Davao Occidental was created on Oct. 28, 2016 out of Davao del Sur following a referendum.

The province consists of five municipalities – Sta. Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos, and the town of Sarangani.
Former Davao del Sur Governor Claude Bautista became the first governor of Davao Occidental and is serving his second term in office. (PNA)