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Sunday, March 3, 2024

DOH chief open to allowing foreign doctors in PH

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Foreign doctors may soon be allowed to practice locally for a limited period amid a push for the Department of Health to give the greenlight as it would benefit the country not only with the exchange of ideas, but also on the transfer of technology.

In response, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa told Sen. Francis Tolentino he will talk to the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) to possibly relax the current licensing rules to allow foreign doctors to temporarily practice their profession in the country.

The PRC, under Republic Act No. 8981, has the power to supervise foreign nationals who are authorized by existing laws to practice their professions, either as holders of a certificate of registration and a professional identification card or a temporary special permit in the Philippines.

In a statement, Tolentino said there are plenty of doctors abroad signifying to conduct medical practice in the country, but the current protective Philippine policy prevents them from doing so.

“There are doctors and specialists registered in other countries who want to practice here in our country for a brief period, not to compete. This will result in the transfer of technology,” he said.

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There are also specialists, especially fellow Filipinos practicing abroad, in the United States who Tolentino said want to serve in the Philippines, not only in medical missions but for a longer term since they have an affinity for the country.

Tolentino also made the suggestion during his regular radio program on DZRH where the DOH Secretary was present as a guest.

Herbosa agreed with the senator, sharing his previous experience when he worked in Malaysia as a visiting professor in a medical university where the Philippine medical license and his accreditation with the Philippine Medical Association were enough to practice medicine there.

“I only submitted my license here in the Philippines, my membership in the PMA, my curriculum vitae which they reviewed. After an interview, they gave me a temporary license in the hospital there in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia [National University of Malaysia],” he recalled.

During the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013, Tolentino remembered that a group of French and Spanish physicians from “Doctors Without Borders” talked to him when he was in Tacloban City.

The lawmaker said those foreign doctors wanted to treat critical patients but were only allowed to administer first aid procedures, since they don’t have licenses to practice in the Philippines.

According to the Republic Act 2382 or The Medical Act of 1959, foreign physicians and surgeons are exempted in securing certificate of registration if they were “called in consultation only and exclusively in specific and definite cases, or those attached to international bodies or organizations assigned to perform certain definite work in the Philippines.”

This is provided that the doctors “shall limit their practice to the specific work assigned to them and provided further they shall secure a previous authorization from the Board of Medical Examiners.”

Meanwhile, commissioned medical officers of the United States Armed Forces stationed in the Philippines are also not required to register, provided that they will render their services only for American soldiers and “within the limit of their own respective territorial jurisdiction.”

RA 2382 further says that “foreign physicians employed as exchange professors in special branches of medicine or surgery whose service may, upon previous authorization of the Board of Medical Examiners” are also exempted from securing certificates of registration.

However, such authorization shall automatically cease when the epidemic or national emergency is terminated by the Secretary of Health, the law adds.

The PRC is in charge of authorizing the issuance of a certificate of registration/license or a Special Temporary Permit to foreign professionals who desire to practice their professions in the country under reciprocity and other international agreements.

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