PRC observes due diligence in screening foreign medical missions

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(Editor’s note: This letter dated Sept. 17, 2012 was addressed to Ms Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, editor in chief of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. We are using it here since the column [not article as referred to by the writer] of Mr. Jose Ma. Montelibano does not appear in the Philippine Daily Inquirer but is posted only at INQUIRER.net)

We would like to bring to your attention an article about the Professional Regulation Commission that appeared on your website www.opinion.inquirer.net on September 6, 2012 (Thursday) with a title: “Utak Wang-wang at PRC” as written by Jose Ma. Montelibano.

At the outset, allow me to state that while people are free to express their own opinions, we also believe in responsible and accurate delivery of news to our publics. May I also clarify that PRC stands for Professional Regulation Commission and not Philippine Regulatory Commission as mentioned in the article.

The Commission does not, in any way hinder and/or deny the facilitation of local and foreign medical/dental/health missions in the country.

Recently, the Commission issued PRC Resolution No. 2012-668 or the “Guidelines Implementing Section 7, Paragraphs (j) (l) and Section 16 of R.A. 8981, called the PRC Modernization Act of 2000 and the pertinent provisions of the Professional Regulatory Laws, the General Agreement on Trade-in Services, and other International Agreements on the practice of foreign professionals in the Philippines” which took effect on July 12, 2012.

However, in response to the representation made by various stakeholders, both local and overseas, for the reduction and/or elimination of the fees to be paid and rationalization of the liability insurance requirement of covered foreign health professionals who will be engaged in humanitarian missions in the country, the Commission, together with members of the Professional Regulatory Boards, arrived at a consensus to suspend the effectivity of Section 5 and Section 17 of the said resolution effective August 23, 2012.

Let me now reply to the questions and issue raised by Mr. Montelibano against the Commission:

1. When Philippine-based doctors, dentists and other medical practitioners do their medical missions, what permits do they need from the PRC before they can do so?

There is no need for them to obtain permits to conduct medical missions since they are already licensed to practice their profession in the country.

2. Why cannot PRC use its powers to persuade those it licenses to treat the needy?

The PRC has no power to persuade/compel professionals to provide free services to needy Filipinos. It cannot mandate that, for the renewal of licenses, the professionals must show proof of free service to the needy. It also cannot target certain professions like medicine, nursing and dentistry because it would be discriminatory against them, considering that there are 46 professions under the control and authority of the PRC. Any regulation requiring free service must also apply to other professions.

3. What we have is a PRC that makes it difficult, frustrating and exasperating for Filipino-American doctors, dentists, nurses and other medical professionals to conduct their medical missions at their own expense.

Records from the International Affairs Division of the PRC show that from January 2010 to July 31, 2012, a period of two and a half years, there were 1,330 missions that were given permits. In addition, only 30 organizations submitted post-mission reports, showing lack of compliance to the rule requiring the head of the mission to submit reports concurred in or noted by the president of the local medical component society and the LGU representative. The reports are supposed to be submitted 15 days after the end of the mission. These data clearly show that the PRC has not made it difficult for foreign missioners to come to the Philippines. There is a screening process for those applying for the Special Temporary Permit starting with the Accredited Professional Organization (APO) and the specialty societies which assume the responsibility of verifying the credentials of the listed missioners. The papers are then forwarded to the DOH before they are finally endorsed to the PRC.

4. What is the PRC worried about, that the Philippine Medical Association will frown if Filipino-American medical missions are freely allowed, even facilitated?

The PRC would like to assure the public that in giving Special Temporary Permits, it only has the safety and welfare of patients in mind by making sure that the foreign physicians have the necessary competence and skills needed in the performance of treatment/procedures during the conduct of medical missions. In the conduct of the missions, there is no conflict between local practitioners and foreign physicians. In fact, all foreign surgical and medical missions are required to have local counterpart physicians. They complement each other in the care of patients treated during medical missions.

5. Thanks to the utak wang-wang pervading among commissioners of the PRC

This is a malicious and unjust statement by the writer, Mr. Montelibano, against the PRC Commissioners who have been working tooth and nail in the performance of the Commission’s myriad functions.

The PRC Commissioners and the Professional Regulatory Boards care about people, especially the indigents during medical missions. These people place their trust in physicians whom they might be seeing for the first time, not even knowing their names or places where they come from. The doctor-patient relationship is held sacred in the profession of medicine. In medical missions where there are many patients to be treated within a limited period of time, the introductions, the establishment of rapport, the history-taking, even physical examinations and patient evaluations are all abbreviated. Given these less than ideal situations, it is the duty and responsibility of the PRC to ensure their safety. It must observe due diligence in the screening of foreign physicians who come here to treat local patients.

While it is our mandate to nurture the Filipino professionals towards technical proficiency, it is also our civic responsibility to serve the Filipino nation.

We therefore request that you publish this letter in the interest of fair and objective journalism.

Very truly yours,

Atty. TERESITA R. MANZALA,
Chairperson,
Professional Regulation Commission

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