Davao Oriental’s Poor Patients are “Forever Grateful” To Visiting Fil-Am Doctors

City of Mati, Davao Oriental – A warm welcome greeted Filipino-American doctors who arrived in this province’s capital on January 28, with teenage boys and girls in cultural garbs regaling the visiting medical professionals with high-spirited dances of the Mandaya tribe.

The visiting Filipino-American medical professionals numbering almost a hundred are members of the University of the Philippines Medical Alumni of America (UPMASA) who have recently conducted a joint medical, dental and surgical mission in Davao Oriental from January 29 up to February 1, 2018.

The doctors say they are here primarily to “evaluate and treat the underserved and unserved patients” in the province, citing a huge number of indigent patients in Davao Oriental which is one of the most important criteria for selecting their mission site.

“The mission is our annual commitment to deliver medical care to our fellow Filipinos who cannot afford the care they need. Last year, we were in Maasin in Southern Leyte. We have not conducted one in the Davao Region,” says Dr. Valentin Dolorico, chairman of the UPMASA Medical Mission Committee. The mission has two parts, the first part is medical and dental whose medical team can see 700 to 800 patients a day for four days and dispense some medications and glasses. In surgical, the team can perform about 100 major and 175 minor surgeries. “We usually use two to three operating rooms with two to three operating tables in each room for the major surgeries. We bring our own staff, supplies, and machines. The group will consist of about 60 US-based and 25 local volunteers. We will be responsible for our hotel and travel expenses during the mission. For the major surgeries, we can perform general surgery cases such as hernias, gallbladder and thyroids plus ENT and gynecological cases. To avoid ‘stealing’ cases from the local surgeons, we request that the patients screened for the surgeries be destitute and therefore unable to afford the cost of the procedures,” says Dr. Dolorico.

Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang says he is “deeply appreciative” for the visiting medical doctors’ “acts of kindness to my people who are among the weak and vulnerable.” During a special dinner at the Lanes Hotel here which he hosted for the Filipino-American doctors, Governor Dayanghirang in a message delivered by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Hermingilda Nartates says: “You travel thousands of miles to lose yourselves in generous service here. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. If the world were filled with people like you who are generous givers to those in need, then there will be less suffering. It is always inspiring to see real professionals like you who are proud of the work you do inspite of the sacrifices that come with service to the people. Many of you have spent decades in service and you are true exemplars of what public service really is. I would like to believe that your greatest reward is not a plaque nor money, but a community, a poor community like ours, always grateful for the services you provide.”

The provincial government-run Davao Oriental Provincial Medical Center is the main venue of the medical, dental and surgical mission. The provincial government and the city government of Mati being among the sponsors of the joint mission, has provided security and safety to the humanitarian group, including logistical support and free transportation of volunteers for the duration of the activity. Both have also facilitated patient recruitment and provided transportation for patients from remote villages to ensure that services of the mission will reach the far-flung areas. The provincial and city governments have also provided food and transportation for its local partners, the Halad Mission Group Foundation, Social Concern Foundation, and Southern Philippines Medical Center, who conducted screening of potential surgical patients throughout the province.

The UPMASA, however, has provided roundtrip transportation from Manila to Mati, including accommodation and food, for volunteers belonging to the Ugnayan ng Pahinungod Manila of the University of the Philippines Manila. The UPMASA is responsible for the procurement and transportation of the cargo, equipment, medicines and supplies. They made sure that quality care is preserved instead of considering the number or volume of patients achieved for the mission. The University of the Philippines Manila through the Ugnayan ng Pahinungod Manila has assisted the mission organizers in the procurement of pharmaceutical, medical and surgical supplies. The local partners, Halad Mission Group and the Southern Philippines Medical Center, has conducted a province-wide screening of patients for surgery during the mission. They also supplemented the surgical team of UPMASA and Ugnayan ng Pahinungod Manila, and they performed surgeries including laparoscopic cholecystectomies. The Social Concern Foundation has operated on cataracts during the mission and they have their own staff, supplies and equipment.

Served cases of the Surgical Mission are the following: Hernia, 28 patients; Thyroid, 22; Cholelithiasis/Gallstones, 16; Gyne cases, 13; Cleft, 8; Cyst, 4; Hemorrhoids, 1; Deformity, 1. A total of 108 minor cases were done. Eye disorders were also treated that include cataract extraction serving 43 patients and Pterygium excision catering 15 patients. Thousands more of patients have availed of the free dental services, medical checkup, and medicine dispensing at DOPMC in the City of Mati and the Provincial Hospitals of Lupon and Manay.  

“The people whose health we are investing heavily in are the same people who will man the workstations not only in our province, and they will till the fields, power our communities and fuel our economic growth. How society values human life is the best measure of its progress,” Governor Dayanghirang told the foreign medical doctors.

The provincial government has provided an adequate venue where patients can be seen for medical consultation and extend necessary hospital services and medical facilities such as equipment, operating rooms, delivery rooms, dressing rooms, stock rooms for the equipment and supplies of the humanitarian group, for performing surgical procedures including minor and major surgery, ward for the pre-operative patients, recovery rooms for the post-operative patients, use of diagnostic and evaluation laboratory, ECG and X-rays, laundry, sterilization of instruments and other hospital facilities free of charge. No fees were collected from the patients and the mission team.

All the eleven mayors in the province have provided free transportation for their sick constituents from their far-flung villages to the provincial capital, City of Mati, where the sprawling Capitol-run provincial hospital is.

“We are forever grateful to the foreign medical doctors for saving our lives. I have long been suffering from hernia for more than ten years already. I am only poor. I could not even afford the fare from my village to the big hospital in the city,” says the teary-eyed Emelio Diano, 43, a coconut farmer living in a geographically isolated village of Pantuyan in the town of Caraga. “They are giving us hope to continue to live. They are God’s answer to our prayers. May these kindred spirits continue to heal the poor people in our midst. May they be blessed by God even more,” says 39-year-old Nicasio Guinwatan, another hernia patient from the town of Caraga. “I also thank the governor for bringing these medical doctors to our province. They saved so many precious lives including mine. And they are doing this for free including the medicines. Thank God for these generous, beautiful people. They transformed so many lives of the poor. They give us a new life,” says the teary-eyed Misraien Inawas, 39, who is stricken with goiter.

“Thank you for being God’s instrument of grace and miracles for others. I believe we are here to make a difference. Later on in life, you will realize that it is neither your successes nor your conquests that will give us satisfaction. It is our contribution that really matters, paying back what we owe the community that nurtured us. It is the realization that we have done our duty with honor and self-respect, and made a difference in the lives and fortunes of others less privileged than we are. With all my heart, I say thank you. My deep bows of gratitude,” Governor Dayanghirang told the medical doctors. (Report by Ferdinand Zuasola/Photo by Eden Jhan Licayan)


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