BY CESAR D. CANDARI, MD FCAP EMERITUS
FOR A NUMBER OF years before and after my retirement, I joined groups of medical missionaries to the Philippines. From 1987 (after the People Power Revolution) to the present, I participated to help the poor people in our country who needed medical care. In some instance, I was a leader in this project. The medical mission was the vanguard humanitarian endeavor of any Filipino medical and civic organizations. It showed no limits in their dedication, kindness, sympathy, charity, and genuine love for the poor people in our homeland. Looking back at my accomplishments thus far, I felt intense pleasure from knowing that I have touched many lives
The June 21, 2012 Republic Act No 8981 declared that the Philippine Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) has recently issued regulations for issuing temporary permits for the conduct of humanitarian missions by foreign medical professionals in the Philippines which will negatively impact all medical missions in the country. There are requirements regarding fees, administrative civil penal sanctions, liability malpractice insurance that unquestionably have a nefarious impact to Fil-Am doctors, nurses and dentists from foreign countries who conduct medical missions to the Philippines. We are infuriated about this arcane change of heart in our Motherland. I maybe wrong, but it is a blatant inanity that the PRC in our country are imposing unwarranted regulations.
As a result of this unilateral PRC decision, several missionary groups have cancelled their forthcoming Medical Mission projects to the Philippines. We feel we are unwanted. We are being subjected to superfluous administrative, civil, criminal and malpractice liabilities because of the unnecessary requirements. We do not wish to be subjected to unscrupulous/frivolous medical lawsuits in our humanitarian medical services to the Philippines. The PRC office says the regulations will be strongly implemented this year.
We are really hurt and feel the frustrations, if not disgruntled by our inability to render assistance to our poor kababayans. We pray that a waiver by the President of the Philippines to these PRC regulations must be instituted. This is of particular interest to us – a Filipino American doctor in this country who volunteer our services. A popular word of wisdom says: “Every good act is charity. A man’s true wealth hereafter is the good that he does in this world to his fellows.”
We have relentlessly done our calling for humanitarian medical services to our country for several years now – performed by several groups from all over the US. Many Filipino American doctors, nurses, and other civilian volunteers are organized for this purpose. Missionary’s services benefited the poor of the poorest in the different regions in the Philippines, who otherwise are unable to be seen by a physician in their whole life.
How frequent do we perform these medical missions? Some groups will go yearly, and others maybe twice or thrice yearly. These missionaries spend their own money and on top of that lose patients and daily income. Indeed, it is a sacrifice to do medical missions in general. What we spend for missions is not a joke! It is enormously expensive. Nonetheless, it is extremely uplifting to help our countrymen.
The following requirements are :
1. Copy of your passport (expiration date must not exceed 6 months prior to departure)
2. An authenticated copy of valid professional licenses issued by the country of origin
3. Proof of purchase of liability insurance in the Philippines
4. Special Temporary Permit ID
For former Filipino professionals who wish to renew their Philippine medical licenses:
1. A notarized application form to renew the
Philippine Medical License (PRC professional application form)
2. A photocopy of applicant’s passport (must not exceed 6 months prior
3. Original and photocopy of previously issued Philippine Professional ID
4. An authenticated original and photocopy of the License/Certificate of
Registration/Permit in the adopted country
5. Four (4) Passport size ID pictures
6. You will be assessed penalty for the number of years your license has
been allowed to expire.
Volunteers are required to pay P3,000.00 pesos for each application of Special Temporary Permit, and are also required to pay P8,000.00 pesos for the issuance of Special Temporary Permit ID. In terms of dollar value, this is equivalent to approximately $300.00 out of your pocket just to offer your voluntary services for the medical mission. For 15 to 20 doctors in the group will cost a significant amount of money. In addition, each MD volunteer has to purchase liability insurance in the Philippines. It is not only another expense but we have to submit ourselves to unnecessary exposures, frivolous lawsuits in the Philippines and probably subject to defense expenses, waste of time in court hearings and possibly lose of license. We, doctors are already burdened by enormous prices of liability insurance in America.
Like any surgery, it is difficult to predict when complications arise that includes post-operative bleeding, post-op infection, intra-operative or post-op death, and many others. There are many incentives for medical malpractice lawsuits especially when the Philippine lawyers assume Fil-Am doctors have the dollar. Whether there may have been incidents of medical complications incurred by previous medical/surgical missions resulting to implementation of stringent regulations is not clear.
The leaders of various Alumni and Physician organizations in America are in shock, obviously disappointed, and outrage of the PRC regulations. Some missionaries have been disheartened and rebutting the issues.
The PRC may have strong reason. I have, however, a strong suspicion that the presence of Filipino American doctors is anathema to the local doctors. Is this PRC regulations supported by the PMA of the Philippines? Universal HealthCare is now introduced by the Aquino administration. 5.2 million “poor households” that were identified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development are covered by PhilHealth insurance and foreign doctors are therefore not needed? The budget that the government allocated for this year is P12 billlion to enroll the poorest Filipinos. According to Herbosa , DOH Undersecretary, “ the government is close to reaching 100% universal healthcare coverage for the population, as of today”.
As cancellations of medical missions are in progress, the ultimate victims will be the less fortunate Filipinos, the underserved people in the Philippines who have been the beneficiaries of these medical missions.
We, missionaries are driven by the desire to live in peace and nay- to find relief for the people from the specter of poverty. There is an expression of despair in their eyes. We love to serve our country; but if our country does not need us then we can probably seek for other alternatives. Our services are surely needed in other third world countries.