2 nursing board members face raps

- Sandy Araneta -
Two members of the nursing board will be charged with corruption for the cheating scandal that marred the 2006 nursing board exam, which has cast a shadow over the qualifications of some 17,000 nurses.

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez approved the filing of charges before the Sandiganbayan against Anesia Dionisio and Virginia Madeja for violation of Republic Act 8981, or the Professional Regulation Commission Modernization Act, and RA 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The two are accused of leaking some of the test questions to an exam review center before the tests were held.

President Arroyo, meanwhile, approved yesterday the recommendation of Labor Secretary Arturo Brion to implement a voluntary retake of specific tests for those who passed the June exam and want to work in the United States, as required by a US nursing commission.

This came a day after the United States Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CFGNS) rejected with finality a last-ditch appeal by a congressional task force to reconsider its decision not to issue Visa Screen certificates to the exam passers.

Mrs. Arroyo also said the government will subsidize some of the expenses of the possible retakers, which may reach 17,000, the total of those who passed the controversial exam.

"But it (retake) is voluntary if they want to go to the US because it is the US that is not accepting them. So, if they are accepted by Malaysia, England, or in a hospital in the Philippines and then they don’t have to pay, then that is fine," the President said in a pooled interview.

Mrs. Arroyo said she has already instructed Secretary Brion yesterday to make arrangements for the retake, and make things easy for those who would undergo the examinations again.

Brion, she said, would be meeting with the deans of nursing schools to determine what review centers would be accredited.

The CGFNS issued a temporary ban on the 17,000 last month, insisting that Filipino nurses retake sections of the 2006 examination where mass cheating took place.

In denying the appeal of the Philippine task force, CGFNS advised authorities to implement the steps for a retake of Tests 3 and 5 – the two exams in question – "without the need for Philippine nurses to surrender their current licenses in order to do so."

Brion had resubmitted an executive order to the President on the special voluntary retake of the nursing exam for those who passed.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said application for voluntary retake would be filed with the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) under the same administrative process for the application for examination of regular examinees.

The examination itself shall be conducted in the manner and under the same security safeguards observed for Board of Nursing examinations, DOLE said.

"Hopefully this retake will be the final and closing chapter of the June 2006 nursing board exam," Brion said.
Defense ‘failed miserably’
In its 25-page resolution, the Office of the Ombudsman panel tasked to investigate the leakage scandal said the defense of Dionisio and Madeja "failed miserably to controvert the glaring fact that the only possible sources of the so-called leakage in the 2006 Nursing Licensure Examinations (NLE) could have been the very persons who prepared and submitted the examination questions which (were) maliciously disclosed."

Dionisio was the assigned examiner in psychiatric nursing, and Madeja to medical surgery nursing, the Office of the Ombudsman said.

The panel will also conduct a fact-finding probe to determine the possible involvement of other persons in the exam leakage.

An expert in the nursing profession expressed sadness over the recommendation of the Ombudsman.

"We are sad that that happened to them but justice must be served," said Dr. Marilyn Lorenzo, executive director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Health Policy and Development Study.

Lorenzo expressed hope that the leakage controversy would "teach all nurses a lesson to abide by the ethical and moral framework within which the nursing profession must be practiced."

The case stemmed from a complaint filed before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) by PRC on the leakage.

The PRC investigation showed that "a total of 56 situations contained in Madeja’s manuscript, identified as keywords, appeared in handwritten leakage notes distributed to the reviewees of RA Gapuz Review Center in Baguio City and other parts of the country."

A total of 25 questions, it said, actually came out in the NLE in the subject of medical surgery nursing test.

The probe also revealed that a majority of Dionisio’s test questions both handwritten and in computer printed notes were shown to have reached the reviewees of RA Gapuz and Institute for Review and Special Studies in Manila and other parts of the country.

The PRC report showed a total of 90 questions from Dionisio’s test were among the 100 examination questions asked in the NLE’s psychiatric nursing portion.

The NBI had dismissed Dionisio’s defense of losing her manuscript for lack of any supporting proof.

It also did not give merit to Madeja’s defense "of the possibility that the leakage in the NLE Test 3, involving her prepared questions, was maliciously reproduced when she went to a computer shop." – with Paolo Romero, Helen Flores, Sheila Crisostomo, AFP

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