Sponsorship Speech for SB 3499 (The Respiratory Therapy Bill)

Mr. President,

It is my privilege to present to this august chamber Senate Bill No. 3499 under Committee Report No. 723, entitled “An Act Regulating the Practice of Respiratory Therapy, Creating a Professional Regulatory Board of Respiratory Therapy, appropriating funds therefor, and for other purposes.” 

Respiratory therapy is an allied health specialty employed with medical direction in the treatment, management, control, diagnostic evaluation and care of patients with deficiencies and abnormalities in the cardiopulmonary system. Respiratory therapists are involved in the treatment of chronic lung problems such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other acute multi-systemic problems due to other pathological conditions including heart attacks and stroke.

The practice of respiratory therapy in the Philippines started in the late 1970s by a group of American respiratory therapists employed by Medical Services of America, Inc. They encouraged the graduates of B.S. Medical Technology and nurses to undergo a six- month on-the-job respiratory therapy training program. This program produced the first batch of Filipino respiratory therapists. During the 1980s, the Philippine government, under the auspices of the Commission on Higher Education, recognized some educational programs under the discipline of respiratory therapy. In 1987, the B.S. in Respiratory Therapy (BSRT) program was first offered in medical colleges.

The field of respiratory therapy is relevant in a country that counts acute lower respiratory tract infection and pneumonia as among the top causes of morbidity with cases reaching as many as 700,000. Tuberculosis, another leading cause of morbidity, also claimed a total of 132,725 victims in 2006 alone. Given the numerous calamities that has visited the Philippines, it is expected that more cases of respiratory-related illnesses will be recorded. The prevalence of these diseases among Filipinos makes the professionalization of our respiratory therapists an imperative to ensure the safe implementation of responsible respiratory care.

Although our country was the first in Asia to offer a curriculum in respiratory therapy, we have fallen behind in terms of regulating and professionalizing this field. Twenty-five years since its introduction, the BSRT program remains to be the only four-year degree course that has not been licensed or professionalized by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). As a result of this omission, our respiratory therapists are deprived of their due recognition as professionals and this has placed them in a very disadvantaged position compared to their foreign counterparts. Case in point is our RT practitioners working overseas, particularly those in the Middle East.

The employment viability of our BSRT graduates has reached tenuous levels as foreign governments require a “professional license” from the country of origin as well as international accreditation requirements for licensed respiratory care practitioners. When fully implemented, not only are the jobs of our Filipino RTs abroad at stake but our government stand to lose several millions of pesos worth of potential remittances.

The lack of a professional license has also hindered the development of this medical field and prevented RT practitioners from being globally competitive despite their innate and overt abilities. Moreover, the lack of a professional license has delegated our Filipino RTs as mere technicians instead of as professionals.

The measure i am sponsoring this afternoon seeks to address the concerns of our Filipino respiratory therapists by providing for the following:

* The creation of a professional regulatory board of respiratory therapy under the administrative supervision and control of the PRC;
* A licensure examination requirement for all applicants for registration in the practice of respiratory therapy; and
* Guidelines and regulations involving the practice of respiratory therapy in the country.

Indeed we need a sense of urgency in passing this proposed legislation to alleviate the plight of our RT practitioners both here and abroad, and to elevate their status justly. It is my hope that my fellow senators will heed the call of our Filipino respiratory therapists and assist this representation in the immediate enactment of this bill.

Thank you.