By EMILY VITAL
MANILA — Thousands of medical students are dismayed over the decision to proceed with the scheduled Physicians Licensure Exams (PLE) this month amid the rising COVID-19 cases in the country.
Since last month, the Philippine Medical Students’ Association (PMSA) and the National Union of the Students of the Philippines (NUSP) have been asking the Board of Medicine of the Professional Regulation Commission (BOM-PRC) to postpone the PLE. Recently, the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges (APMC) and the APMC-Student Network echoed the call, citing the record-high daily cases of COVID-19.
For the past three days, the Department of Health recorded over 20,000 daily cases of COVID-19 infection. Today, the DOH said there are 22,415 new cases.
“We must not endanger the lives of PLE takers over a 4-day face-to-face examination in the middle of highly unsafe conditions just so that they may be added to our health workforce,” the PMSA and NUSP said in a statement. “Like our health care workers whom they will be joining, our PLE takers are human beings with dignity and the basic right to health, not merely supply, commodity, or a pool of manpower to keep the health system from collapsing.”
For the past week, PLE takers have also turned to social media to express their appeal, using the hashtags #PostponePLE #PostponeSeptPLE.
PMSA and NUSP added, “It is uncaring on the part of the BOM-PRC to cite reasons that ‘newly licensed physicians are needed and called to serve amid the health crisis’…”
PMSA and NUSP said the DOH is to be blamed for the “gravely failed pandemic response.”
The student groups also lamented that the BOM-PRC also reasoned out that there are no other available dates where the PLE can be moved. This, they said, shows that the commission “gives more weight to scheduling and related logistical matters over the evident risks to the lives of the PLE takers, exam proctors and facility personnel, the families they will come home to, and the public at large.”
The groups also criticized the PRC for requiring exam takers to sign a waiver absolving the commission of any liability should anything happen to the examinees. They said that this “clearly shows that the BOM-PRC is freeing themselves of accountability.”
In an online petition, PLE takers also called on the national government to release specific guidelines on the PLE for all community quarantine levels, give a standardized form of support to all PLE takers from all LGUs such as quarantine facilities, quarantine resources, and RT-PCR testing, and ensure financial, medical, and accommodation support in the health management of any PLE examinee, examination proctors and administrators, and facility personnel in the case that they get infected with COVID-19.