In recent weeks, there have been two big news stories in the Philippines related to the medical field. Both of these are major stories, although for different reasons.
The first case, which has been public for a couple of weeks now involves a patient who had surgery at a Government operated hospital in Cebu, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center. The incident happened back in January 2008, and involved a Filipino man who got into an embarrassing situation. After a night of drinking, the fellow got into a sexual encounter with another man. The whole thing went bad, and the man ended up with an aerosol can somewhere where it should not have been. The only way to retrieve the aerosol can, it turned out, was by having surgery for removal. During the surgery, somebody in the operating room shot video of the scene, and the doctors and nursing staff were all laughing and carrying on regarding the situation that the man was in. When the can was retrieved, one of the doctors even said that the “baby had been delivered,” and broke out into a burst of laughter. This video (over 3 minutes) was posted to YouTube, and made worldwide headlines.
To me, this behavior that the doctors and nurses displayed in the Operating Room was really a case of a breach of confidence with the patient! It was also childish and immature behavior. I believe that it borders on malpractice, although the man recovered from the surgery successfully.
Currently, the medical staff is under investigation, and they stand to lose their medical licenses. I feel that it would be appropriate for such a punishment, given their actions.
Do you remember last year when there was a huge uproar due to an episode of Desperate Housewives when Terri Hatcher made comment indicating that she didn’t want a doctor from the Philippines? It caused a huge stir in the Philippines. While I think that this YouTube incident is an isolated incident, I can also imagine that if this is a common practice among doctors in the Philippines (I don’t think it is, though), many people worldwide would prefer to avoid medical professionals from here. Was Terri Hatcher right? What do you think?
In the second big medical story here in the Philippines, there has been a big investigation into medicals billings here in the Philippines, and evidence has surfaced that a number of Philippine clinics have been involved in defrauding the United States Government of hundreds of millions of dollars! Yes, you read that right, HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of US Dollars! How?
Well, you see, United States Veterans who have Tri-Care medical coverage can be treated in many accredited medical facilities in the Philippines, and Tri-Care is billed for the services. It turns out that some of these facilities have been billing the US Government at rates up to 2,000% above the correct rates! It has been said on the local news that even some American Vets who were treated were given kick-backs to assist with the fraud.
One Medical Facility in the Philippines has already been convicted, and they have been ordered by US courts to divest all of their assets within 3 months, and to give the money to the US Government as a repayment of the fraud that they committed. All reports are that the Philippine Government stands ready to assist the US Government in whatever way is necessary to recover the lost money. The Philippine Justice Secretary last week even said that he is ready to extradite any Filipinos that the US Justice Department requests for trial.
Quite interesting times for the Philippine Medical profession. Very interesting!