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FEATURE: Returning doctors injecting fresh take on annual RP health missions (Last of Two Parts)

Dr. Esperanza Lahoy is more concerned with post-operative care.

Lahoy, who is the PCS’s program on Surgery for the Underserved Regions for Education (Sure), says no one is monitoring the progress of a beneficiary’s intake of medicines.

Likewise, she’s also worried about beneficiaries taking medicines as prescribed by doctors during the health mission.

Pennsylvania, United States-based Alvear says these are things that dampen interests of doctors doing more health missions to the country.

Cure

MEDICAL volunteer groups in the US have become weary of confronting these issues surrounding health missions to the Philippines.

One of these groups, the Daly City, California-headquartered Community Care Missions, took matters unto their hands and adopted the Rizal Medical Center in Pasig City in 2004.

The agreement cites the CMC would provide equipment as well as training hospital specialists while Rizal Medical would accommodate health missions from various groups.

CMC’s initiative was based on a 2002 study by doctors at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine on the conduct of health missions by local and foreign groups.

The study noted that some doctors, like those from the National Institute of Health, rated the conduct of these “temporary health care services” as highly effective.

However, they didn’t cite how effective these services are on the villages where the missions were held.

“This may be due to the missions’ ‘inability to address the full spectrum of health care, or the total needs of their clients,’” wrote the study team led by Dr. Juan Pablo Nanagas.

Data from the Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino (LinKaPil) program of the state-run Commission on Filipinos Overseas showed that some P1.43 billion worth of cash and in-kind donations received from donors abroad went to health services.

LinKaPil also facilitates the conduct annually of some 40 to 50 health missions such as cataract extractions and cleft lip operations.

The missions were in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, the National Capital Region, Bicol, and in Western, Central and Eastern Visayas. These are areas perceived by mission organizers to be “safe” and “attractive” for its members.

As for other areas of rural Philippines, their near-absence from being served by these missions is “lopsided,” says new PCS president Armand Crisostomo.

Crisostomo said PCS will convene a working group to operationalize recommendations put forward by participants of the recent surgical mission summit, held December 5.

“We must begin to craft an understanding to upgrade health services delivery in the Philippines,” said Dr. Jose Yamamoto, another surgeon who heads the Gawad Kalusugan Foundation Inc.

Ofelia Maristela, a pediatrician who’s also with CCM, said while it is “painful” to introduce reforms in health missions by Filipinos abroad, doing so could be a cure.

“But we need to go beyond one-shot deals,” she says.

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