Saturday, July 08, 2006

CHED nursing panel quits, cites lack of will

MEMBERS of the Technical Committee on Nursing Education of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) yesterday resigned en masse to protest what they said was the CHED’s inability to implement measures to ensure quality nursing education.

Committee members Amelia Rosales, Carmelita Divinagracia, Glenda Vargas, Zylma Sanchez and Marilyn Lorenzo, committee chair, said that instead of implementing past memoranda and acting on their recommendations, CHED has failed to do its mandated duty and has caved in to political and economic interests, resulting in what they said was the decline in the quality of nursing education.

The country has 460 nursing schools, of which only 12 are considered by CHED as outstanding due to their 90 percent passing rate in national licensure examinations. Forty of the schools have zero passing rate even though they are required by law to ensure a minimum of 5 percent passing rate.

Annual enrolment at nursing schools stands at 100,000 with 15,000 to 25,000 graduates yearly.

The TCNE blamed this predicament on the sub-standard programs offered by many nursing schools as well as the lack of basic facilities and the large number of enrollees.

Among the issues the group said CHED failed to address were the commission’s insistence to utilize secondary hospitals as base hospitals, problem in the selection process for members of the technical committee, lack of support and trust for the TCNE assessment on nursing programs, and inconsistent interpretation and implementation of policies and standards by the CHED central office and the regional offices.

The inconsistent interpretation, the committee said, resulted in confusion among nursing deans, students, the DOH and the Professional Regulatory Commission.

The panel members said CHED lacked the political will to close schools in the "very poor" category or those that have failed to meet the minimum 5 percent passing rate requirement.

Last year, CHED announced it would crack down on nursing schools that failed to meet the standards as it raised the passing rate requirement to 8 percent. It said it will also refuse to grant permits to applicants that lack basic facilities such as base hospital, a one to eight faculty-student ratio, affiliation with an active hospital and a qualified dean and faculty.

CHED Resolution 475 also set the guidelines for the phase-out of nursing schools that have performed poorly in the licensure examinations.

With the new measure, 23 nursing schools failed to meet the requirement and are now facing the possibility of being shut down.

The Commission and the TCNE have identified the areas where most nursing schools failed and these were the faculty-student ratio, hospital affiliation and a qualified dean and faculty.

Reached for comment, CHED deputy director Julito Vitriolo said that what the TCNE members were protesting was the appointment of Jorge Cordero, Philippine Nurses Association president, to the technical committee since he is also the owner of the Philippine College of Health Sciences.

"They are protesting his appointment but the fact is that his appointment is not yet final. It is still pending and they have nothing to fear even if for example Cordero’s views differ with them since they can overrule him," Vitriolo said.

He likewise said that the appointment of school owners to the TCNE does not violate CHED rules as he maintained that they, the school owners, are also education stakeholders and that their views are also important in determining programs and standards for nursing schools. He said that such practice was done in past and no protest was registered.

"I think they have just overreacted," the official said while adding that CHED will always work for attaining quality higher education in the country.

Nursing schools have sprouted in the country due to high demand overseas, particularly in the United States, United Kingdom and the Middle East. Records showed that since 1994 more than 100,000 nurses have left the country with 50,000 leaving from 2000 to 2004. Of the total, 57 percent went to Saudi Arabia, 14 percent to the US and 12 percent to UK.

This predicament has alarmed health experts who said that the exodus of qualified nurses who seek greener pastures could severely affect the country’s capability to adequately provide for the medical needs of its growing population. They cited the case of the state-run Philippine General Hospital which is losing 300 to 500 nurses out of the 2,000 every year.

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