AN ASSOCIATION of US-based doctors trained at the University of the Philippines (UP) will visit four towns in Cebu from Feb. 6 to 9, 2012 to provide medical consultations for those in need of health care.
Volunteers will also perform free surgical procedures in the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City, said Dr. Zenda Garcia-Lat, national president of the UP Medical Alumni Society in America (UPMASA).
“Most of the volunteers have been doing this every year because once they join and see the impact of the mission, they are hooked,” she added.
This year’s mission sites are Liloan (February 6), Minglanilla (February 7), Balamban (February 8), and Dumanjug (February 9).
Prospective sites are selected based on the level of need for medical services in the community, as well as the safety of the volunteers, availability of a functional operating room and the cooperation of local health workers and government officials.
UPMASA has been conducting medical missions every year since 1994.
“We generally go on these missions at the invitation of the local doctors and government officials because we make sure we serve only indigent patients,” Dr. Lat said. “Many times, these patients have never seen doctors before.”
Around this time last year, UPMASA visited Bani town and Alaminos City in Pangasinan, providing help to thousands in need of but unable to afford health care.
From February 13 to 18, 2011, the UPMASA’s 76 volunteers from the United States and 46 volunteers from Ugnayang Pahinungod, along with six other volunteers from Manila, performed 393 major surgeries and over 4,000 medical consultations, dental extractions, eye exams, and other surgical procedures in their Pangasinan visits.
“The medical mission probably attracts the most volunteers nationwide, and is the most expensive, hands-on and time-consuming annual project of UPMASA,” said Dr. Valentin Dolorico, the association’s medical missions committee chair.
In his summary report for the society’s 2011 mission, Dr. Dolorico pointed out that the mission relies on chapter donations and private fund-raising efforts.
One of last year’s beneficiary-communities, the third-class town of Bani, is a “medically underserved area with only a clinic for its health facility.”
At the time of the medical mission, Dr. Dolorico said, the town was still recovering from a storm that devastated the coastal fishing and farming community in May 2009.
Meanwhile, in Alaminos, conditions at the Western Pangasinan District Hospital—which had only one functioning anesthesia machine to serve two operating rooms and a delivery room—were far from ideal.
The volunteers worked from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. to serve as many patients as possible.
“Conditions were not so ideal but we all adjusted and improvised during difficult situations,” Dr. Dolorico said in his report.
Volunteers also gave away dolls and toys to the children, after the surgeries.
The US-based volunteers worked with Ugnayang Pahinungod, the volunteer arm of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and its teaching hospital, the Philippine General Hospital.
Pahinungod provided local medical and nursing volunteers for the operating room, surgical supplies and instruments, anesthesia machines, and took care of scheduling and procurement of medication and intravenous fluids, as well as transport of supplies.
Among UPMASA’s partners for its medical mission this year are the Bausch & Lomb, Catholic Medical Mission Board, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, district congressmen, local health providers, mayors of the towns the mission will visit, Sun.Star Publishing Inc., Unilab Philippines, and Mercury Drugs Philippines.
The medical mission also served as Sun.Star Cebu’s first corporate social responsibility activity related to its 30th anniversary in November. (PR)