By Vanne Terrazola
Administration lawmaker Senator Francis Tolentino on Monday urged the government to allow medical graduates to render service in public hospitals even without a license to help in the fight against the coronavirus disease or COVID-19.
Tolentino issued the appeal after the Department of Health (DOH) called for volunteer doctors and nurses as it sets up the referral hospitals for the COVID-19 cases.
He said the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) should “waive” the remaining days of the physician licensure examination to be taken by more than 1,500 graduates from all medical schools in the country. This is so they can be immediately deployed by the DOH and support health workers in government hospitals.
The physician licensure exam (PLE) set for March 15 to 16 was postponed in compliance with President Duterte’s declaration of a national public health emergency and order prohibiting mass gatherings. Luzon was also placed under an enhanced community quarantine.
Tolentino said he wrote Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, to ask for the waiver of the examinations and deployment of the new medicine graduates to public hospitals.
“Under the law, in Sec. 12 of Republic Act No. 2382, the Medical Act of 1959, as amended, it provides that during epidemics or national emergencies, medical students who have completed the first four years of medical course, graduates of medicine, and registered nurses are allowed to render medical services upon authorization by the Secretary of Health without need of a certificate of registration,” Tolentino said.
“In a national health crisis, such as a pandemic, we are also at war, with the lives of our countrymen at stake, and our health workers are on the front lines, but they need reinforcements now. In such extraordinary times, we need to adopt all measures to save the lives of the Filipino people,” he added.
Besides allowing them to serve pending their licenses, Tolentino proposed to the national government or LGUs to grant medical graduates with honorarium or allowance.
Citing data from the PRC, Tolentino said around 1,524 aspiring physicians took the PLE on March 8 and 9 before the last exam dates were cancelled on March 11.
He noted the average passing rate for taking the PLE is 85 percent.
According to Tolentino, the move was also done in Italy, where COVID-19 cases and deaths saw a rapid spike over the past few weeks, surpassing figures from China.
He also likened this to the United Kingdom in 1914, when senior medical students were tapped to serve in the British army as temporary surgeons on probation during World War I before they graduated.
In the Philippines, the closest example was during the World War II, when cadets from Batch 1942 and 1943 of the Philippine Military Academy were commissioned as lieutenants and called to war even before they graduated from the academy, Tolentino said.
“Nasa giyera tayo ngayon. Bakit pa natin hihintayin na lumalala pa ang mga kaso ng COVID-19 dito sa Pilipinas bago tayo kumilos at dagdagan ang ating mga health workers, na nananawagan ngayon para sa ating tulong?” Tolentino appealed.
(We are now at war. Why would we wait for the COVID-19 situation cases to worsen here in the country before acting and augmenting our health workers, who are appealing for help?)