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Filipino nurses still preferred in US despite controversies

March 27, 2007 6:16pm
Despite the controversies arising from the leakage-tainted June 2006 nursing licensure exam and the walkout of 10 nurses in New York in April last year, American recruiters still prefer to hire nurses from the Philippines for employment in medical and home care facilities in the United States.

In fact, some 450 licensed Filipino nurses are just awaiting the release of their work or immigrant visas for deployment to the US, according to Francis Luyun, chief executive officer of Sentosa Recruitment Agency.

The agency is the local counterpart of the New York-based SentosaCare that brought the 10 nurses who are facing charges of conspiracy and child endangerment for abandoning their work at the Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation Care Center in Smithtown that cares for physically disabled children.

The nurses, including physician Elmer Jacinto who chose to work as a nurse in New York, were on a three-year contract with Avalon but resigned without notice and walked out from the medical facility before the lapse of their contract. Their lawyer in New York, Felix Vinluan, was also charged.

The nurses and Vinluan pleaded “not guilty" on March 22 on sixth-degree conspiracy, five counts of endangering the welfare of a child and six counts of endangering the welfare of a physically disabled child.

Reports from New York said Vinluan instructed the nurses to quit their job without notice in April last year after the nurses complained of having grown tired of broken promises of benefits.

Luyun said the base pay of a nurse in the US is $50,000, or P2.5 million a year. Others can even earn up to P5 million in one year.

SentosaCare’s chief operating officer Bent Philipson said his company’s recognition of the capabilities of the Filipino nurses has not been diminished even after the controversies hounding the nursing profession.

Speaking at a press conference at the Shangri-la hotel in Makati City, Philipson said the Filipino nurses’ dedication to their work has been commendable.

“As far as the examination last year is concerned, it is not for us to decide whether it (2006 nursing licensure examinations) is valid or not. We can only accept Filipino nurses who have licenses and experience in this field" Philipson said.

“They (Filipino nurses) are hard-working. Our clients also want to deal with them. (Working in the US) is like (having) a life of true American dream" Philipson said.

According to Luyun, Sentosa continues to operate in full force to recruit nurses and physical therapist for deployment to the US.

“We are happy to entertain anyone who wants to apply to us. All the papers of these nurses are being reviewed by the authorities. Filipinos are good caregivers" Luyun said.

Philipston, meantime, said the problem over the complaints of the 10 Filipino nurses from Avalon could have been remedied if the Philippine Embassy

“I hope that this would send a message that they (SentosaCare’s clients) would not deal with them. When these nurses resigned on April 6, 2006, we called up their Consul in New York Cecilia Rebong. Our local Senator Jack Schumer was also refused by her. We invited her to meet with the hundreds of nurses. But we are talking with a wolf, nothing happened there" Philipson said.

Philipson said administration senatorial candidate Mike Defensor even stepped into the picture and conducted his own investigation of the issue after Sen. Schumer wrote to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who then referred the matter to Defensor, who was then presidential chief of staff..

“We thank Secretary Defensor for giving fair justice" Philipson said.

Philipson said their license to hire and deploy Filipino nurses to the US, which was suspended by the government after the walkout of the 27 Filipino nurses, has been restored to them because none of their allegations were proven true during the investigation conducted by Defensor.

“I think this is plain and simple dishonesty," Philipson said, referring to the
Philipson said they first came to the country to introduce their company in 2001.

“In 2001, when we start coming here, we learned that the other companies are asking so many fees from the applying nurses who want to work in the US. We were the very first people who do not charge anything from them" Philipson said.

Some of these companies either do not deliver their promises or the nurses failed to go abroad despite paying exorbitant fees that the companies demanded from them.

“We are not charging anything from the applicants to get a good paying job in the US. We don’t actually recruit in other places. It is difficult to be in 25 places at one time" Philipson said.

Lawyer Ibaro Relamda, Jr., legal counsel of Sentosa, said those who were charged with one count of sixth degree conspiracy, five counts of endangering the welfare of a child and six counts of endangering the welfare of a disabled person include Juliet Anilao, 35, now Kew Gardens; Harriet Avila, 24, Elmhurst; Mark Dela Cruz, 29, Elmhurst; Claudine Gamiao, 39, Elmhurst; Elmer Jacinto, 31, Elmhurst; Jennifer Lampa, 37, Smithtown; Rizza Maulion, 35, Smithtown; James Millena, 32, Brooklyn; Theresa Ramos, 33, Smithtown; Ranier Sichon, 32, Radcliff, Ky; and Atty. Felix Vinluan, 42, Westbury.

“At present, our license is fully restored. However, the investigation is still ongoing because of the complaint. We are still submitting documents to the US" Relamda said.

The 10 Filipino nurses face up to six years imprisonment in New York and deportation to the Philippines.

Although none of the children at the facility suffered ill effects from the walkout, the criminal charges were filed because the children were endangered, according to Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Leonard Lato.

"It's just like if a parent leaves a child in a car with the windows up in the summertime," he said. "It doesn't matter if nothing happens to the child; the fact that they were left in a dangerous situation is the crime," he explained.

The indictment claims the nurses knew that their resignations "would render it difficult for Avalon Gardens to find, in a timely manner, skilled replacement nurses."

All the defendants were released on their own recognizance and were told to return to court on April 24.

The 10 nurses are among 26 nurses and one physical therapist who walked out of their jobs last year from different health care facilities owned by Sentosa Care Group.

The group complained that Sentosa paid them less than what was promised them and forced them to render overtime work without pay. They said they were recruited to work for a certain facility but ended up with a different employer upon their arrival in New York. -GMANews.TV