Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Swimming in Muck: the Philippine Medical Profession

Transplant tourism, the rectum surgery scandal, last year's brouhaha over leaks in the nursing board exams, and now, Filipino hospitals involved in the US veterans' insurance scam.

Just when will all these controversies regarding the Philippine medical profession end?


Let me give my dear readers an overview of these said scandals, starting with the Philippines being a premiere destination for "transplant tourism."

Early this year, it was revealed through media that several jail inmates, as well as people from the more impoverished areas of the country, have been living with only one kidney. As it turned out, these people sold their other kidneys to foreigners who paid them with quite a substantial sum of money. They were made to believe that since they still had one kidney left, their bodies can still function normally.

Blinded by money that could support their respective families for some time, these individuals are now slowly finding out the repercussions resulting from the loss of their other kidney. Most of them are no longer as physically strong as they were, and some of them are now deprived of specific food and beverages that could otherwise make their weakened condition worse.

The Department of Health (DOH) has already stepped in on the matter, banning the continuation of such a trade perpetrated not only by foreigners but also by wealthy Filipinos in need of kidney transplants. Both the kidney "transplantees" and "receivers" are up in arms regarding this issue, and debates on this matter have yet to be resolved.

It's creepy and somewhat twisted to think that people would be so desperate so as to sell their vital organs just for a few months' release from financial deprivation.


The rectum surgery scandal, of course, is the one where an admittedly-gay person underwent surgery for removal of a six-inch long body spray canister which was inserted in his rectum by his lover. The said surgery could have gone on smoothly and quietly -- but medical personnel of the Vicente Sotto Medical Memorial Center (VSMMC) decided to do otherwise. All throughout the procedure, the poor patient became victim to jeers and cajoling from these beasts in white. Several of them even brought in cellular phones to the surgery room and took pictures and videos of the procedure. One of these cellphone videos even made it to YouTube and registered a whopping two million hits. For more details of this, just click on this link to my earlier entry pertaining to this issue.

Recently, names of the five main members of the surgery team who operated on the hapless gay patient were released. Just to make sure they get their just desserts, allow me to name these foul creatures who took their playfulness in the operating room a little too far:

- VSMMC head surgeon Dr. Philip Leo Arias
- Assistant surgeon Dr. Angelo Linawagan
- Surgeon Dr. Max Joseph Montecillo
- Nursing attendant Rosemarie Villareal
- Circulating nurse Carmina Sapio

Just a personal note to these five people: if justice is not given to you so-called paragons of the Philippine medical profession here on Earth, then may your souls burn in Hell.

Only five people were named as participants in the rectum surgery scandal, but I am very sure that there are more. The video proves that. Even these noisy onlookers should be deemed as accessories to the crime. Not even one of them thought of at least shushing the group.

I say, take away all of their licenses! Ban all of them from the medical profession forever!


It's been some time since the issue about leaks in the 2006 nursing board examination has been discussed, but it still haunts the local nursing profession. A shadow of doubt now hangs over credentials of nurses going abroad. Even those nurses are already working in hospitals and nursing homes abroad are being regarded with suspicion.

I can't blame foreign employers for having this state of mind. I mean, honestly, how long has this cheating been going on? For all we know, we've already been sending nurses with bogus credentials abroad for some time already.

Look at the nurses who took part in the rectum surgery scandal. They make one truly wonder about the quality of nurses our nursing schools are producing these days.


Now, here's something new to add to the list of the Philippine medical profession's foibles. the US State Department recently revealed that a number of Philippine hospitals are involved in a million-dollar US veteran insurance anomaly.

This is very embarrassing. Imagine: Philippine medical personnel are actually involved in including names of people who aren't even war veterans in a list of those who are supposed to be eligible for insurance claims from the US government.

If they thought the US State Department wasn't going to find out, then they'd better think again.

Somehow, I believe that this is sort of a comeuppance for Filipinos who always think they can "get away with murder," so to say.

I had an uncle who served as some sort of a guerrilla in World War II. I said "some sort of" because he wasn't much of a guerrilla. In fact, he was among those responsible for the burning of our town proper, as well as the eventual looting. They rationalized that they had to burn the town so that the Japanese won't have any place to hide. (Yeah, right.) My mother's ancestral home was reduced to ashes because of that.

After the war, this uncle of mine was able to avail of benefits due for US war veterans. Well and good, except that he also listed his wife (she was the one I was related to) as a veteran -- even if she was not. Thus, they received money from the US up to the day they bit the dust.

This is just one story. I'm sure there are others who also duped the US into giving more than they should.

And it pains me to say that we once again find Philippine medical practitioners at the heart of this scandal.

When will we ever learn?


I don't know how the Philippine medical profession can get out of the muck it has submerged itself in. One thing is sure, though: our esteemed doctors and nurses should probably recite the Hippocratic Oath again and digest the principles that this oath stands for.

The Philippine government should also probably set aside its grand plans for "medical tourism" for the meantime and instead concentrate on moves to weed out unscrupulous individuals who mar the face of Philippine medical practice and strengthen efforts to come up with a credible, dependable, and world-class healthcare industry.

Either that, or probably we should just accept the fact that Philippine health service sucks and do nothing about it. How about playing golf instead?

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