Medical colleges group amplifies call to delay med board exams amid COVID-19 surge

September 7, 2021 - 6:36 PM
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Medical students from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila are seen participating in limited face-to-face classes in this June 2021 photo. (The STAR/KJ Rosales)

A large association of medical colleges joined the widespread call to postpone the coming Physicians’ Licensure Exam this month.

The Association of Philippine Medical Colleges Incorporated and its student network issued their own petition on September 3 to postpone the board exams, citing skyrocketing COVID-19 cases and variant infections.

In the petition released online, the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges-Student Network stated that they first sent a letter of request to the APMCI Board of Trustees on August 26 to address the safety concerns of the PLE takers.

“In the past weeks, there has been a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, with a record-high number of 22,366 daily cases last August 30, 2021. This surge, together with the emergence of more transmissible variants, has threatened the safety and well-being of Filipinos nationwide, including our board takers for the September 2021 Physician Licensure Exam,” it said.

“Not only does this pose various logistical and financial concerns, but it also threatens the health of the examinees, their families, and their communities,” it added.

The association then responded in favor of their request on August 30. They released a resolution addressed to the Philippine Regulatory Commission-Board of Medicine (PRC BOM) about the students’ collective request to delay the board exams.

The letter was addressed to PRC Chairperson Eleanor Almoro. It was sent by APMCI President Madeleine Grace M. Sosa.

Screenshot of APMCI letter to PRC-BOM captured on September 7, 2021 (Facebook/APMC-Student Network)

“The APMC Board of Trustees, by a unanimous decision, would like to request the Professional Regulatory Board of Medicine to postpone the Physician Licensure Examination (PLE) due to the increasing danger to the health of the examinees posed by the pandemic situation,” Sosa wrote.

The association, therefore, suggested deferring the PLE to a “safer” time.

“It is the APMC Board’s assessment that the present pandemic, more than ever, threatens the health and safety of the examinees due to an increasing number of cases (19,000 cases last August 28, 2021) and the detection of the highly transmissible delta and lambda variants. The APMC suggests that the PLE examination be postponed to a reasonably safer time. Thank you,” Sosa said.

As of writing, the PRC-BOM still proceeded with the scheduled PLE. Room assignments and other guidelines were also released through their website.

The PLE is scheduled on Sept. 11, 12, 18, and 19, 2021 at PRC testing centers in different parts of the country.

Need for more health workers

Student and medical groups have been making this appeal to the PRC-BOM since last August 23.

During that time, the number of COVID-19 cases has already surpassed the 18,000-mark in the daily average of additional infections.

READ: Citing COVID-19 surge, students are asking to postpone medical board exams

Amid the dire health situation, the Commission on Higher Education rejected their petition on August 31, citing the need for more health workers as among the reasons.

“Kailangang ipagpatuloy ito, kasi mayroong mga estudyante na gustong makatapos, gustong maghanapbuhay at saka kailangan natin ng additional health workers dahil sa COVID-19,” said CHED Chairman Popoy De Vera in a briefing.

Some health workers online criticized this view. They pointed out that there will be more doctors if PRC-BOM approved the rescheduling.

“Rescheduling the PLE will bring more doctors in two months than in your two weeks’ time,” one user said.

“Hindi makataong mga dahilan na walang ibang schedule at kulang sa supply ng health workers kaya dapat ituloy,” another user wrote.

Dr. Gene Nisperos, assistant professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, meanwhile, also issued other concerns on COVID-19 testing among the board takers.

In a joint response to CHED’s decision, the National Union of Students of the Philippines and the Philippine Medical Students Association lamented that the commission does not care about the welfare of the board takers and other personnel involved in the conduct of the exams.