PRC suspends rules for Fil-Am doctors

by Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Sep 03 2012 01:01 PM | Updated as of Sep 03 2012 09:01 PM

The Philippine Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) has suspended implementation of part of a recent order governing the activities of visiting foreign doctors, nurses and other professionals in the country.
The June 21, 2012 directive stipulates that foreign professionals – including dual citizens like Filipino-Americans conducting short-duration medical missions – must register and secure special permits and buy liability insurance, among others.
Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO Chair Imelda Nicolas said the PRC and Health Department Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa have agreed to suspend at least two provisions of PRC Resolution 2012-668 involving the increased fees for special temporary permits and the requirement to buy liability insurance.
“You have expressed both to CFO and DOH your vehement objections to several provisions of the PRC resolution,” Nicolas said in her letter to the Fil-Am community.
“It was then a very pleasant surprise when during the meeting PRC announced through an authorized representative of PRC Chairperson Teresita Manzala that PRC is suspending immediately the implementation of Sections 5 and 17 of the PRC resolution,” she explained.
Nicolas added that because of this, guidelines covering these two sections reverted to a 2009 joint administrative order.
“Please to all of you, please do not cancel your scheduled medical missions to the Philippines,” she implored.
There was a strong backlash from the controversial PRC circular that actually set the implementing guidelines for a 12-year-old law that aimed to modernize and beef up the PRC.
Maryland-based Dr. Zorayda Lee-Llacer predicted fewer physicians would volunteer for medical missions. “To me this is R.I.P. to our enviable, proud tradition of giving back to our less fortunate countrymen,” Dr. Juan Montero II of Virginia said.
The rules covered foreign nationals in the Philippines through international treaty or agreements, including those working for foreign companies or aid organizations, and “former Filipino professionals”.
The special temporary permits are valid for only one year but can be extended. The permits can be obtained by paying a P3,000 ($73) application fee, P8,000 ($195) for the cost of the ID itself and the purchase of liability insurance.
Foreign doctors need to produce a copy of their passport, an authenticated copy of the professional license issued by their country of origin, proof of purchase of liability insurance in the Philippines and the Special Temporary Permit.
Various Fil-Am groups have postponed or cancelled scheduled medical-surgical missions to the Philippines early next year.
Every year, hundreds of Fil-Am doctors, nurses, engineers and other professionals visit their hometowns in the Philippines, partly for leisure and also to share the fruits of their success in America.
They go beyond playing tourists, spending much of the year in the US collecting medicines, surplus medical equipment and even food, toys and used clothes that they give away to the poor, usually in the weeks before and after the Christmas holidays.
Dr. Lee-Llacer says that while she agrees aggrieved families should be compensated for medical malpractice that could be a tempting target for opportunistic lawyers.
“Malpractice insurance is the red meat for tort lawyers. Haven't we learned that in US and guess what has happened to our unaffordable healthcare system?” Dr. Montero asked.
“When we go on surgical missions, we spend our own money for the air fare to the Philippines. We bring a significant amount of surgical supplies that we give to the hospital. We spend our valuable time collecting and packing these supplies. We spend money from our own pockets to ship these supplies. This is a labor of love,” Dr. Lee-Llacer stressed.
She added that proof of a valid license especially those issued in the US should suffice to establish the competence of visiting Fil-Am professionals. “Those are not easy to get,” she argued, “The US requires many proofs of training and specialty certifications. All states monitor the practice of every physician.”
Nicolas, who received an earful from Fil-Am doctors at the recent NaFFAA convention, said the DOH will continue to oversee the implementation of foreign surgical and medical missions in the Philippines.
They urged the PRC to convene in October, together with the CFO, DOH and the Interior and Local Government Department a “multi-stakeholders’ strategic workshop” to discuss the growing field of surgical and medical missions in the Philippines.
“We would like to thank PRC and DOH for helping us resolve this issue, and all of you for speaking out and for having the patience to wait for the results of this process,” Nicolas said.