Pinoys lodge complaint against training academy in UK

By Rose Eclarinal
Fifteen Filipinos in Worcestershire, England lodged a complaint against the Healthcare Training Academy (HTA), a college offering Non-vocational Qualification (NVQ) courses, including Caregiver diploma, in Kidderminster, Worcestershire.

They claim they have paid the full tuition fee for their relatives in the Philippines to study in said college but none of them were able to come to the UK.

They are blaming HTA for failing to produce the necessary documents for the issuance of the student visa of their relatives. They also alleged that HTA wittingly misrepresented itself as a ‘legitimate college’ when, in fact, it is not accredited by the Accreditation Service for International Colleges or ASIC to accept foreign students.

‘I have been totally fooled’

Clive Marshall-Lewis is married to a Filipina. He was keen on helping his wife send her nephews in the Philippines to a recognized college in the UK. He found out about HTA and decided to enroll his nephews in the school.

“They offered a complete package: the people will be inducted in the Philippines, then they will come over here to study and all the visas and all the legalities will be dealt by,” said Marshall-Lewis.

He paid a total of £3,200 for the enrolment of his 2 nephews. But both nephews were not granted student visas to study in the UK. To this day, he is waiting for his refund from HTA.

“I’m English and I’m dealing with English people in my own country and I have been totally fooled. So what chance do other people have who are vulnerable, have no visas? This is the disgusting part of it. They are preying on people who are not familiar with our country and our ways and only wants the best life for themselves,” said Marshall-Lewis.

Eden Sumagpao had the same hopes for his relatives. He works as nurse in the UK and he wanted his relatives to complete a Caregiver diploma at HTA. He paid some £6,000 for three enrollees.

In the contract and receipts he showed ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau, the payment package for 3 students includes full tuition fee for the whole year, meet and greet facility at Birmingham Airport where the students will be collected, transportation to the accommodation, daily transfer from accommodation to college, and initial accommodation for the first four weeks.

But like Marshall-Lewis’ nephews, Sumagpao’s relatives were not issued student visas. They failed to come to the UK and attend classes at HTA.

“Same reason ang binibigay ng school (HTA), sinasabi nila na ang papers ay kulang at naghihintay na lang sila ng registration,” said Sumagpao.

Sumagpao decided to enroll his brother-in-law in another college in the UK late last year. He said he did not encounter the same problem he had with HTA. His brother-in-law is now in the UK, studying not in HTA but in another college. The payment he made to HTA has yet to be recovered.

Lourdes Gadose and Nenita Edge both paid a total of £2,000 for the enrolment of their respective relatives at HTA.

“They said if you pay cash, instead of £3,000 you only pay £2,000. So I paid £2,000. Na- check din namin sa internet na wala pala silang license,” said Gardose.

Harassment and failure to pay wages

Jurita Nicolas and Soledad Olarte were former students of HTA. They also have cousins in the Philippines who applied to study at HTA.

The 2 decided to transfer to another college when Nicolas’ cousin was interrogated by an Immigration Officer at a UK airport after entering the country from the Philippines. Nicolas’ cousin was also informed by the same Immigration officer that HTA requires the necessary permit and accreditation to operate. When the HTA management learnt about the airport incident, the 2 were allegedly “belittled” and harassed.

“Sabi sa amin, dalawa kami–you Filipinos, you know nothing (about the law here). Masakit sa dibdib,” said Nicolas.

“Sana huwag na rin silang mag-apply sa agency na partner ng HTA sa Pilipinas. Kasi yung iba nangungutang pa. Kawawa naman sila, di ba? Pinapangakulaan lang na ganito, ipapadala daw ang legal papers, wala naman,” said Olarte.

To this day, HTA has not issued them certificates for the previous courses they have completed at the college.

It was a different story for Babeth Aduana. She thought she hit a jackpot when HTA offered her a job to teach at the college. She was also promised that her student visa will be converted to work permit. But her visa was renewed. She also did not receive portions of her salary from HTA.

Aduana’s work contract shown to ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau stipulates that her work commenced on March 2, 2009.

“Ang nangyari, after a month, pinasuweldo ako. Then after 2 months, di na kami pinasuweldong mga empleyado. At nalaman pa namin na di nila nai-file ang aking visa na due for renewal,” said Aduana.

No Accreditation

The Filipinos found out much later that HTA, at the time that it was recruiting foreign students, was still in the process of securing accreditation from ASIC.

ASIC is a regulatory body for colleges in the UK that are accepting international students. Without the ASIC accreditation, HTA should not have recruited or accepted international students.

The Pinoy complainants said the “no accreditation” status of HTA is the crux of the visa problem for its potential students back in the Philippines.

In a separate investigation conducted by ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau, ASIC’s CEO, Maurice Dimmock confirmed that HTA is not accredited with ASIC.

The list of ASIC accredited colleges is also posted in its official website.

ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau also invited HTA to answer some allegations made against them, but it has not replied to the registered mail, e-mail, phone calls and various efforts made to reach its management.

Courts favor complainants

Nenita Edge decided to bring the matter to the courts of law in the UK. She filed a claim at the Kidderminster County Court to recover the money she paid HTA.

The decision handed out by the court in October favors Edge. The court ordered HTA to pay Edge a total of £2033.32, which includes interest.

In a separate claim lodged by Babeth Aduana at the Employment Tribunals in Birmingham, the Employment Judge ordered a payment of a little over £2,000 for “unlawful deduction of wages.”

Both Aduana and Edge are still awaiting payment from HTA.

Eden Sumagpao shows the receipts of payment for tuition fee from HTA/Photo courtesy of Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Trading Standards confirms investigation

The Filipinos who claim they have been “duped” also lodged a complaint against HTA at the Trading Standards, a regulatory body for fair trading in the UK.

In a letter sent to ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau by John Dell, Division Manager of Trading Standard Service in Worcestershire County Council, it confirmed that an investigation is on-going.

“I regret that I am unable to give you any specific information on HTA other than the fact that we are investigating complaints made against them by Filipino students.”

“The complaints are being investigated for alleged offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations and possibly other legislation.”

“On conviction, the maximum penalty under the above legislation is a fine and up to 2 years imprisonment with compensation to any victim,” the letter said.

The Filipino complainants said they were enticed to enroll their relatives in HTA because of the good package and promo offered by the college to international students. But they failed to investigate and look into some details that could have avoided this problem.

US jobs for Filipino nurses delayed by retrogression

By Phoebe Jen Indino

An official from the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA) stated that retrogression continues to be the reason why no visas for competent nurses applying for work in the US are available, thus resulting to delay in their employment overseas.

However, PNAA President Leo Felix Jurado, during the 7th PNAA International Conference in this city which culminated Saturday gave assurances that the organization is attempting interventions to aid Filipino nurses applying for US visas.

Under said visa retrogression, as of December, 2009 visa applications from the Philippines shall be processed only through to August, 2005.

Jurado said Filipino nurses seeking employment in the US can be assured that talks are going on between nurse communities and US senators to include the end of visa retrogression in their health care reform measures.

According to the PNAA President, the PNAA is assiduously monitoring the development of such measures while maintaining hopes that the US will soon adjust its bulletin to accommodate more nurses since the current retrogression also presents challenges to hospitals, nursing homes and health care employers faced with worsening shortage in nurses in the US.

The retirement of registered nurses (RNs), compounded by the increasing demand for health care services account for the large vacuum in such shortage.

As an alternative, the PNAA has initiated a Memorandum of Understanding to hire more Filipino nurses with other countries other than US such as Canada.

The Philippines, nevertheless, remain the number one source of foreign nurses in the US, with an estimated 85,000 such nurses in various US states.

Meanwhile, the PNAA is coordinating closely with nursing schools and other institutions to increase the quality of nursing education that would in turn increase their competency and job qualification.

Jurado said, “the PNAA is also helping Filipino nurses “increase competency in their profession by conducting mentoring programs through a PNAA international conference held every two years,” he said.

This year, the 7th PNAA international conference, in collaboration with the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) and the Association of Deans of the Philippines Colleges of Nursing (ADPCN) sought to enhance nursing partnership across the globe which is expected to help address various issues confronting Filipino nurses worldwide.

It can be recalled that Belen Gabato, member of the Board of Nursing in Nevada, USA earlier said that the slowdown of Filipino nurses deployed to the US was mainly due to retrogression and the strict processing of necessary documents.

“The process will eventually take long because qualified applicants are also processing the papers of family members they will be bringing,” she said.

Gabato also stressed that the processing of documents usually takes at least four years because qualified nurses will be considered immigrants, which is why they have the privilege of bringing their families abroad.

She added that in eight years time, there will be a dire shortage of professional nurses in the US. “We project that in the year 2016 to 2025, the US will have a shortage of 500, 000 nurses,” she said.

Nursing Shortage Projected To Get Worse

As baby boomers continue to require more medical care as they age, the number of nurses needed to meet their needs may not be found.

Currently, the average age of a nurse in Ohio is 48. In addition, roughly four in 10 nurses nationwide will retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

One of the reasons is a lack of instructors.

"Over 40,000 qualified individuals were turned away from nursing programs and the reason is because we have max enrollment within all of our programs," said Andrea Lindell, Dean of the UC College of Nursing.

Lindell says the situation at her institution is in-line with the nationwide outlook.

"Our college of nursing in a seven year time period went from approximately 700 to 800 nursing students to 1,800," said Lindell. "We are filled to capacity because of the availability of our resources and the number of qualified faculty we have to teach."

So as more people require care but have fewer caregivers to treat them, Debbie Boerschig, a Nurse Practitioner for UC Health, fears the level of care will slip.

"Errors, I mean that would be the biggest thing I would be afraid of is making errors," said Boerschig.

Nursing numbers did come up this year with the economic downturn. More people entered the field and more people delayed retirement. Experts, however, say the growth will likely be short-term and will not be sustained when the economy recovers.

Lindell suggests the time is now to find a solution to the problem.

"I am very concerned that if we do not look to the future and plan for the future as to how we provide resources to establish a broader based number of nurses we will be increasingly faced with waiting for the qualified nurse, the professional nurse, to provide the quality of care that we're used to," said Lindell.

Copyright 2009 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.