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Philippine Nurses Re-sit Scandal-tainted Exams

An estimated 11,000 Filipino nurses re-sat their examinations Monday after a cheating scandal last year cast a shadow over their results, an official said Monday . Lawyers hired by the US Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) acted as observers at examination centres in Manila, Baguio, Cebu and Davao.

Labour Secretary Arturo Brion said the graduates were re-taking the examinations together with 66,000 others sitting for the first time. "We hope that by doing this we will address the problem of the employability of the affected Filipino nurses in the United States," Brion said in a statement. President Gloria Arroyo released 20 million pesos (428,807 dollars) for the students to re-sit the exam after the US refused to issue visas to the 2006 graduates.

Brion expressed confidence that the cheating that took place last time would not be repeated. "This is a sort of cleansing process for all of us," he was quoted saying in the Business Mirror newspaper Monday. "Nobody wants to go back to that 2006 experience." Results of the exams will not be known for another three weeks. Two examiners were charged with corruption earlier this month for allegedly leaking answers to the two tests.

The US Commission had placed a temporary ban on granting work visas to the 2006 graduates pending a re-sitting of papers that dealt with medical surgery and psychiatric health care. The scandal which followed placed a question mark over the 17,000 students who passed the exam in June 2006 and brought into question the quality of Filipino nurses, who are in huge demand overseas. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that 15,000 Filipino nurses leave the country annually to high paying medical jobs in the United States, the Middle East and Europe.

WHO country representative Jean Marc Olive has said that in the next 15 years, the US alone will need about one million nurses and the Philippines is a key recruit
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