ROSEMONT, Illinois (jGLi) – What started as a volunteer service by Filipino health care professionals from the United States to pay back their dues to their motherland by performing surgeries, such as hair-lip operations, dental treatments, eye examination and prenatal care, has spawned a cottage industry from 1990 up to the present.
It has brought assistance to the Philippines to the tune of 611.5-Million pesos or US$15-Million.
The annual medical missions by these Good Samaritans nearly came to a screeching halt a couple of months ago when the Philippine Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) passed a resolution, imposing 1,200 pesos (US$28) for a Special Temporary Permit for “non-Filipinos,” who join the mission.
Dr. Vicky G. Navarra, a Filipino American medical surgeon residing at Detroit’s suburban Bloomfield Hills in Michigan, who was a guest singer at the annual 18th Gintong Pamana awards night gala hosted by Chicago area fortnightly, Fil Am Megascene, told this reporter that the 1,200 peso (US$28) regulatory fee by the PRC was waived through the intercession of Secretary Imelda Nicolas of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).
Among the awardees was Attorney Rodel E. Rodis, one of the founders of National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) and president of U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance, for Apolinario Award in Leadership.
“We would have scrapped our plan to conduct medical mission from Jan. 26 to Feb. 2, 2013 in Allen, Samar,” Navarra said. “But because the PRC reversed itself, our mission will go on.”
The other five medical missions from Texas; Los Angeles, California; New York, Florida and South Carolina are likely to follow the lead of Navarra.
“We are bringing in medical supplies, medical equipments that we leave behind to the rural hospital where we hold our medical mission and we donate our services and time for free, why burden us with additional special permit fees?” Navarra, a native of Aparri, Cagayan in northern Philippines, asked.
She said after the August 17, 2012 meeting between the PRC and CFO, the proposed fee was shelved.
Navarra, wife of Ed Navarra, the re-elected national NaFFAA chair, said for every medical mission, it is usually composed of between 50 and 80 people. Only doctors come from the U.S., the rest of the mission is complemented by local dentists and nurses.
“WE GO THRU BUREAUCRACY”
“We provide medical supplies, like medicines we solicit from drug companies in the U.S., and surgical equipments and we leave these equipments behind in the hospital. We pay customs duties and, of course, our own airfare. We prepare for one year,” Navarra added.
When they apply for a mission, they get approval from local consulate, the Department of Health, Commission on Filipinos Overseas, the mayors and the governors.
When they hold their mission on Jan 26-Feb. 2, in Allen, Samar, they expect to have about 60 to 80 that make up the upcoming missions.
She refuted some of the complaints leveled against medical missionaries:
1. “We go there to train ourselves. No, we don’t need to train. We are not residents but practicing physicians and recently retired. We don’t train on the patients. We operate on them, not train on patients. We don’t bring residents with us, but if we do, we take with us senior residents and they don’t do cases to help themselves.
2. “We go only to tourist spots. Not true. But when we did a mission in Manila, we did it in Tondo, where we saw poor people. We go to places with hospitals (usually government hospitals) and people from barrios and the patients are screened locally by doctors for medical need and medical health. If there are charges during their pre-screening, they are being charged by local hospitals.
3. “We are hit-and-run. We operate and then, no one follows up the patients. Not really. After the patients are pre-screened by local doctors and we had treated them, we endorse the patients for follow up to local government hospital doctors, except in Cagayan de Oro, where doctors were so nice and patronizing. We left our supply. But in the case of a hospital in Jaro, Iloilo, the chief surgeon there was so condescending to us that we only stayed there for one day, instead of the whole week.
4. “We want to follow Department of Health’s suggestions where we can hold our medical mission. But we only do so if we know somebody in the area. There is a lot of preparation also in the local side. You cannot just go there kung wala kang kilala (if you know nobody). What about the logistics?”
According to CFO Secretary Nicolas, when she spoke last Aug. 4 in Detroit during the 10th NaFFAA Empowerment Congress, the CFO has coordinated 320 medical missions from 1990 to the first semester of 2012.
“The assistance can be translated roughly to Php611.5 million or USD15 million, benefiting around 730,000 beneficiaries all over the Philippines. These could range from general consultations to surgeries, from dental treatments to eye examinations, from hare-lip operations to prenatal care.
“I am sure there are more of these medical missions that did not pass through us. I highly encourage organizations and individuals involved in medical missions to let us know at the CFO so we can record them and include the info in our data bank.
“This could serve as basis for policy or program inputs and advocacy relative to medical missions. We appreciate getting feedback both from you the giver and from the recipients of these medical and dental assistance. All these we hope should work towards the improvement of the country’s health care delivery.” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
NO PERMIT FEES FOR MEDICAL MISSION:
Secretary Imelda Nicolas of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas is shown speaking at the 10th National Federation Filipino American Associations held in Detroit, Michigan last Aug. 4, where she announced the shelving of a resolution of the Philippine Regulatory Commission, imposing 1,200 Philippine pesos (US$28) as permit fee for doctors to conduct medical mission in the Philippines. (jGLiPhoto courtesy of Atty. Rodel E. Rodis)
PAYS TRIBUTE TO SECRETARY NICOLAS:
Dr. Vicky Navarra, a surgical doctor based in Detroit, Michigan area, commends Secretary Imelda Nicolas of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas for successfully lobbying the Philippine Regulatory Commission to drop proposal to charge Filipino doctors 1,200 pesos (US$28), who make up the medical mission in the Philippines. She was interviewed by the Journal Group Link International when she was a guest singer at the 18th Pamana awards night
gala hosted by Fil Am Megascene at Hyatt Hotel at O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)