Monday, March 18, 2013

[Vital Signs Column] Forgiveness and Justice

Photo credit: http://ivegotconfidence.files.wordpress.com
Nurse's Notes
By Alvin Cloyd Dakis, RN
April 1-15, 2013 Issue

The online outrage of Filipino nurses resulted an issuance of an apology by senatorial candidate Cynthia Villar. In an online post, she said:
"I have only the deepest respect and admiration for Filipino nurses. Kung nakasakit ako ng damdamin ninyo, humihingi po ako ng dispensa. Nagkulang kasi ng oras sa aking pagsagot sa medyo komplikadong tanong. Sa lahat ng mga nursing students at mga nurses natin, iginagalang ko kayo at ang nais ko lang ay hindi maipit ang pag-aaral ng mga nursing students dahil sa hindi pagkakaunawaan ng mga may-ari ng eskwelahan at mga pinuno ng CHED noong mga panahon na yon."

I easily forgive Mrs. Villar but sadly I do not easily forget. 


Lack of time in answering a question should not be used as an excuse for ignorance. The use of the line "gusto LANG nila maging room nurse lang sa Amerika" will not merit you any lack of time. It will not hamper you in addressing the nursing profession in propriety (or any profession for that matter). This is just plainly ignorance and a show of stereotyping.

Our short meeting made me realized that there are still people who share the same ignorant views and impressions of Filipino nurses. Some went below the belt by commenting that those nurses who reacted are “idiot nurses” and some went on by comparing nurses to servant maids. Our short meeting gave me the opportunity to share how the Philippine nursing profession progressed and corrected some of the terms she used like “room nurse”.

I accept the apology of Mrs. Villar believing that people do make mistakes especially under pressure and in national TV. I make these mistakes too and I know the pressure of national TV. I suggest that she goes back to the war room and prepare though. Running for senate would not be as similar to running a foundation where she is simply the boss.

Many Filipinos will not allow this kind of mediocrity in the senate floor. We had enough circuses going on already. And the enlightened Filipinos will vote for those who really represent the people and those who serve and think beyond their personal vested interests.

To fellow nurses, let us, in an act of humility, accept Mrs. Villar's apology. Although, as they say that "the damage has been done" but let us also be reminded how each of us makes mistakes. Well for professionals like us, creating a mistake would mean losing the lives of our patients, and losing our own licenses to practice the profession and possibly ending in jails.

With this, I hope Mrs. Villar would also see this perspective, that as a public persona, whatever she say affects the people - and that a mistake takes toll to ordinary Filipinos - not a physical death but the death of critical thinking and basic respect to others.

Also if nurses campaign against her or strike her name out of their Magic 12, we cannot blame them. We cannot blame the meager 700,000 registered nurses and a million nursing students & graduates, all potential voters, to choose other candidates after this event. We cannot also blame the parents, siblings and family members of this meager 700,000 registered nurses in the country. We simply just cannot shrug this off.

As I said in my previous column, that forgiveness is both merited and can be given out of mercy. I ask nurses to be more compassionate while exercising prudence on the matter and being more vigilant in calling for a better welfare for the nurses and health professionals in general.

This vigilance would mean that we have to do our share of protecting our profession but still being professional in handling conversations or even when debating. We can always defend our stance without making low blows, calling names or attacking the person. As rational professionals, we should address issues and the act of the person – not the person him/herself.

I know that this might not end just yet for some do plan to carry this as their campaign against the person involved – but know that I give that liberty to them. However I do appeal that when we consider or not consider a candidate for that crucial position, may you be guided by their concrete platforms of governance, their integrity and track record, and not by a singular event. Look to the candidate as a whole just as we look to our patients holistically. Then with all the information we gathered, cast our judgment in finality found in our ballots.

***
The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act’s Implementing Rules & Regulations was signed last March 15, 2013 and will be in full effect 15 days after – a landmark health legislation which the vast majority of the Filipinos will benefit from.

It wasn’t an easy task being a member of the Drafting Committee since the law has some restrictive provisions. We also had some debates and healthy discussions especially on how to make the law more understandable and implementable.

One of the most contentious parts of the law and even in its IRR is the restriction of minors in accessing Family Planning (FP) services in public facilities or hospitals without parental consent or only if the minor has had history of miscarriage or is a parent or only during an emergency situation. This provision is one of those bargained during its deliberations in both Houses and finally during the Bicameral Congress where some senators claimed to withdraw their conditional approval of the law should this provision be stripped. So a compromise was sought.

The law exempts minors, who have had previous miscarriages or is a parent or have parental consent from accessing FP services. Minors are also exempted if they have consent or are with their guardians or if it is an emergency situation. We tried to work around it by having a liberal construction and interpretation of the law itself such as for a guardian, the IRR may mean a court-appointed guardian or a sibling who is older than 18 years old. In the case of street or abused children, DSWD or social workers can serve as their guardians.

However, FP and RH information and counselling services should be made freely available to minors who wish to access it regardless of history of pregnancy or having parental consent. This is a fundamental right upheld by the law and translated into its IRR.

Another concern that was frequently raised in the series of public consultations was the “conscientious objector”. This is a special provision of the law that protects private health professionals from imposing providers to give FP/RH services should they not want to because of their religious convictions.

In the IRR, we specified the process where a private health professional need to do in order to become a conscientious objector. That private health service providers should enlist themselves in the Department of Health (DOH) as a conscientious objector; that they would need to post in a conspicuous place in their area of practice a notice that they do not perform such FP/RH service in their clinic/area; and that as any conscientious objector was given the right to refuse providing a specific service, he/she shall have the duty to refer their clients to another service provider that wilfully provides these services. No hospital or facility can be a conscientious objector as these are facilities that obviously do not possess conscience.

After the RPRH’s IRR was signed, the DOH shall now embark into creating sixty (60) Operational Guidelines necessary to clearly implement the law and it’s IRR. According to DOH, they shall endeavour to invite and include Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the process to ensure that inclusive growth and meaningful participation of different sectors working to make this bill possible.

Lastly, as to any good Philippine legislation - implementation, monitoring & evaluation are always the major hurdles. But I believe that many Filipinos are more vigilant in ensuring that this historical law be really implemented well.

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