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Substandard nursing schools face closure

Substandard nursing schools face closure
By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star 10/15/2006

Bent on instituting reforms in the nursing profession, the government is now working on closing substandard nursing schools that cannot produce quality graduates to the prejudice of the students and their families as well as the whole profession.

Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairman Carlito Puno said yesterday he was able to secure a legal opinion from a retired Supreme Court justice saying an injunction issued by a Pangasinan court against the closure of nursing schools performing poorly in board examinations was only applicable in that area.

But Puno said the government could not immediately shut down substandard nursing schools and would have to give them this year and 2007 as a grace period to improve their passing rate in the licensure examinations.

"Kapag hindi pa rin tumaaas ang passing rate, pasensiyahan na (If the passing rate still does not go up, then sorry to them)," he said.

Puno also pointed to an opinion from Sen. Edgardo Angara, a former education secretary, that the basis for the closure could not be retroactive and thus the performance in previous nursing board examinations could not be used as sole basis for the closure.

In the meantime, Puno said the government would just publish the passing rate of the different nursing schools all over the country as a guide for those who want to take up nursing.

This was earlier announced by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye who said it was not a shame campaign but a factual public information.

"We asked the PRC (Professional Regulation Commission) to give us the list of all nursing schools and their performance in the board exam the last four or three years and we will publicize them," Puno said in an interview with Vice President Noli de Castro over radio station dzMM.

De Castro asked Puno why the CHED could not close the nursing schools when it had been agreed in a Cabinet meeting led by President Arroyo that it should be done as soon as possible.

Puno said he thought the court injunction was applicable nationwide and it was only on Friday that he found out about the legal opinion.

He said what they were rushing was the publication of the nursing schools’ performance before the second semester.

"Maybe we can start with the lower half, those who have passing rate of 50 percent and below. The passing rate the last three or four years," he said. "That way the public will see and be informed."

Puno said this will be done by late November as the PRC should also be given time to prepare the list. "Let us give PRC three weeks, it is the one with the compilation," he said.

Puno said the closure of schools could be done by end of school year next year.

"Normally, we order a closure every end of school year for the welfare of the students who have already enrolled, it will be hard for them to transfer," he explained.

De Castro pointed out that it would not serve any purpose to let students stay in a school performing very poorly in the board examinations.

Puno explained while the nursing schools were given a grace period as far as closure was concerned, they could no longer escape being scrutinized by the public with the publication of their performance in board examinations.

"If they have always registered low passing rates, then there will have no more enrollees," he said.

Though the schools to be closed could still make a legal challenge in court, they could not do anything to stop the publication of their performances because these were matters of public record.

"They can go to the court, meanwhile, we have made the publication," Puno said.
Shame campaign
Earlier, Bunye said launching a "shame campaign" against substandard nursing schools would serve those who want to become nurses.

"It will be factual. We have to direct those interested to enroll in schools with better performance," he said.

Bunye said the President Arroyo and her Cabinet discussed the need to improve the nursing education because of the strong demand for Filipino nurses abroad.

Bunye disclosed that Puno made the recommendation as the agency was helpless at this time to shut down substandard schools due an injunction issued by a court.

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo approved the recommendation.

"We found out during the presentation of Chairman Puno that some schools have almost zero passing average. That is something that is very worrisome because if you have this type of institutions, you can see the quality of education being imparted. This will serve as a guide to prospective enrollees as to where they should enroll," he said.

Bunye said there was no need for a new order to implement the publication.

"I think this can be done within the powers that are already enjoyed by CHED. This is just a matter of informing the general public. I believe the results of the exams for the last three years are already matters of public record, it’s just a matter of publicizing them."

Based on Puno’ presentation, the Philippines now has 460 nursing schools with a total enrolment of 386,531 as of this school year.

"CHED is very concerned about maintaining standards and ensuring the quality of nursing graudates," Puno said.

The basic problems confronting nursing education are: shortage and poor facilities in most tertiary base hospitals, lack of quality instruction, need for better screening of students admitted to nursing program; and lack of qualified faculty, clinical instructors and deans for nursing schools.

Of the 460 nursing schools, only 248 have tertiary hospitals — 83 government-run and 165 private.

"This condition results in student to patient ratio of 20:1," Puno said.

Officials said the Philippines must be able to keep its ranking as the world’s best source of nurses.

Aging populations in western countries are fueling a high demand for nurses and caregivers but the diaspora is inadvertently creating a nursing shortage in Philippine hospitals and health centers.

The nursing demand also spawned nursing schools across the country. However, the mushrooming of schools have also created concern that many of them might be substandard and were only cashing in on a trend.

Lack of jobs and poor pay force at least 2,000 Filipinos to leave for jobs abroad every month. At least eight million Filipinos work in dozens of countries around the world and aboard most ships across the globe.

Their welfare is a sensitive political issue for the government, which relies heavily on the over $8 billion in remittances they send to their families back home to prop up the Philippines’ frail economy.

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