Tuesday, March 5, 2013


It at least took some of the bite from “Desperate Housewives” or racial comments from DC’s former mayor. They can almost be excused because of their ignorance about Filipino medical professionals, but coming from a well-heeled “kababayan”, a “distinguished” member of Congress and the wife of someone who aspired to be Philippine president – the words got to hurt.

Cynthia Villar stirred a hornet’s nest. Her “they don’t need to be that good” comment about Filipino nurses – one of the Philippine’s top exports that generate tens of millions in yearly remittances – has drawn the indignation of Filipino nurses groups all over the world. Yes, they are virtually everywhere.

“Her ignorance is an embarrassment,” said lawyer Arnedo Valera, a co-executive director of the Virginia-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC).

Villar is running for a seat in the Philippine Senate this May, and most likely wished she didn’t leave home to sit in that candidate’s forum (she’s running for the Senate this May) and answer questions from Winnie Monsod.

In trying to defend her decision to block the closure of sub-standard nursing schools in 2005, Villar – a name synonymous with Philippine real estate – dug a much deeper hole.  In the first place, how could you possibly justify mediocrity? Apparently, Villar believed, by leveling (or perhaps more accurately, lowering) the playing field. 

“Ang sinasabi naming sa kanila na ‘actually hindi naman kailangan ng nurse na matapos ang BSN. Kasi itong mga nurses, gusto lang nilang maging room nurse,” Villar said.

But the thing is Filipino nurses are flourishing. Countries from the United States to Great Britain to Libya have sought them.

Victoria Navarro, president of the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA) – one of the most influential Fil-Am organizations in the US – attributed this to the “bachelor’s degree preparation of nurses in the Philippines that is at least 4 decades ahead of developed and industrialized nations.”

They are decrying attempts to lower those standards. “The quality and caliber of Philippine schools of nursing must be of the same standard, if not better, with our international peers,” the Texas-based PNAA declared in a position paper distributed today.

At his 1st State of the Union address after being re-elected, President Obama honored Fil-Am nurse Menchu de Luna Sanchez of New York University’s Langone Medical Center who orchestrated the evacuation of 20 at-risk infants at the peak of Hurricane Sandy that devastated New York and New Jersey.

Sanchez, in a Facebook post, said her fellow Filipino nurses were “hurt” and appeared to question Villar’s qualification to run for Congress (“yung mga ganung tao hindi natin nilalagay sa puwesto”).

"While everybody is admiring the professionalism and dedication of our nurses in the US, Ms. Villar is degrading them,” Valera said.

In 2005, more than half of the 21,500 foreign trained nurses who passed US nursing licensure examinations were educated in the Philippines.

Villar has offered her “heartfelt apology” to the Philippine Nurses Association. She argued in a separate interview with Maria Ressa that the 60 seconds to answer Monsod’s question was insufficient.

But this 2nd encounter with the media for the “PHVote” campaign appeared to turn just as badly for Villar who had trouble explaining to Ressa why she seemed to put the “concerns of the business people” above the public.

Here again it seems is the disconnect between rich, successful business people aspiring to be politicians and the people (the 47 percent?) they vow to serve.

“Elected officials in the Philippines must introduce and support legislation that will promote the high quality of nursing schools regardless of business and political pressures and to keep sub-standard nursing schools closed,” Navarro stressed.

Sadly, even at home, Filipino nurses are under-appreciated. Perhaps that’s why they need to prove themselves abroad.

No comments:

Post a Comment