Public hospitals to stop volunteer nurses’ program

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011


THE volunteer program for nurses at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) and other hospitals retained by the health department has been terminated.

Dr. Lakshmi Legaspi, Department of Health (DOH 7) assistant regional director, said that Health Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona issued Department Memorandum 2011-0238 on the termination of all nurse volunteer programs, volunteer training programs for nurses and all similar programs in all DOH-retained hospitals.

Legaspi told reporters VSMMC volunteer nurse programs for the third quarter of the year will end on Friday, Sept. 30.

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Registered nurses take these programs to undergo specialized training in various fields of health services including dialysis units, psychiatric nursing, surgery and pediatric services.

There are 10 DOH-retained hospitals including St. Anthony Hospital, Talisay District Hospital and Eversley Sanitarium in Cebu Province, and two hospitals in Bohol Province.

“Many would be affected (by the termination of the program). The nurses could put in their Curriculum Vitae that they took training programs and present this when they apply for work abroad,” said Legaspi.

According to Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) Region 7 governor Dr. Roland Fermo, 4,000 nursing graduates passed the August 2011 licensure examinations.

“All DOH hospitals are hereby directed to discontinue all existing programs involving nurses who deliver free services in exchange for work experience/volunteer nurses, volunteer trainings and all other similar programs,” Ona said in the memorandum dated Aug. 22.

“All hospital-based training for nurses should follow a definite career progression to be defined and accredited by the DOH and Professional Regulatory Commission-Board of Nursing,” Ona said.

He also said many hospitals promote nurse volunteerism in the guise of training programs, in order to justify the training fees. But these trainings do not add value to the professional career of the nurses.

Ona underscored that the current practice of registered nurses “volunteering” to gain work experience or obtain a certificate for their work experience so they can apply for jobs abroad is inconsistent with the law.

He referred to Republic Act 9418 or the Volunteer Act of 2007, where a volunteer is defined “as an individual or group who for reasons arising from their socio-developmental, business and corporate orientation, commitment or conviction, contribute time, energy and resources, whether on full-time or part-time basis, to a just and social development cause, mission or endeavor.”

In a press conference, Dr. Fermo said the nurses in Central Visayas have been discouraged to pay for their volunteer work.

He also said the association has not received any complaint from the nurses with regard to the fees they have to pay.

PNA treasurer Ariel Pabelonia, who was in town to promote the annual national nurses’ convention at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino, said nurses in Quezon Province are also discouraged to pay just so they can deliver services.

The implication, however, of Ona’s memorandum is that it would lessen the chances of nurses finding jobs abroad.

In response, Pabelonia said the PNA-Quezon Province chapter issued a petition to the DOH asking that the volunteer program be continued but without the fees.

Dr. Fermo said the PNA in Central Visayas is trying to come up with a position paper that volunteers be given allowances for meals and transportation expenses.

“There are also a lot of vacancies in government hospitals, these should be filled up,” he added.

He also acknowledged that there is a dearth of jobs for nurses so that the group has organized a job fair for this year’s convention.

Various job openings will be offered at the job fair next month but employers are encouraged to prioritize the hiring of nurses.

For DOH 7, Legaspi said there were 669 nurses hired under the RN Heals program, which is a partnership between the health department and the Department of Labor and Employment.

She added that the program is currently under review.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 27, 2011.

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