Surgical-medical missions attract needy patients

ORMOC CITY – Two surgical-medical missions here have attracted an estimated 2,000 needy patients, indicating that much has yet to be done on the delivery of health care in this city and the district. 

Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, who is hosting her 2nd Surgical, Medical and Dental mission with the doctors of the Society of Philippine Surgeons in America (SPSA) was happy that the City Government of Ormoc has followed her lead and also hosted a similar mission. “You see, it just takes one to lead a good example and others will follow”, she said.

The congresswoman noted that there are a lot of humanitarian organizations willing to conduct various kinds of humanitarian missions in places that need them. All they need are the right people, usually government officials, to help facilitate the paper work in their coming over.

She added that these missionaries pay for their own way, even for the medicines they use, because that is why they are here – to help.

ISHI Mission

On January 14-18, a team from the International Surgical Health Initiative (ISHI) was at the Ormoc District Hospital to hold a medical-surgical mission in partnership with the local government of Ormoc. This is the first foreign surgical mission that Ormoc City sponsored in the mayor’s three terms.

Asha Bale, ISHI team leader, said they chose Ormoc this year on the request of a team member, nurse Socorro Rogers, who comes from Damulaan, Albuera. “She proposed the idea and helped ISHI to plan a mission at the ODH”, Bale said in an email. Rogers headed the nurses’ team, while Dr. Felix Barte who was born and raised in Albuera, led the medical team. This is their third mission to the Philippines.

Dr. Bale added that “all medications, surgical supplies and anesthesia medications and supplies were either donated to ISHI or purchased by ISHI for this mission. IV fluids and anesthesia medications which could not be brought from the US were purchased by ISHI locally” and that all post-operative medications were provided to patients by ISHI.

At the end of the mission, Bale said they have operated on 57 major cases and 94 minor operations, aside from treating and giving out free medicines to an estimated 1,000 patients with minor ailments.

Lucy’s Surgical Mission with SPSA Part 2

Meanwhile, Lucy’s “Surgical Mission Part 2” on January 21-25 started their final screening of pre-listed patients on Sunday, January 20, at the Western Leyte College. The SPSA team are now in the city and looking forward for an action-packed week.

Caren Torres-Rama, the congresswoman’s sister, said they have already scheduled 100 major surgeries, 150 minor surgeries of lumps and bumps, 250 dental extractions and 100 eye surgeries. She added that if the doctors will still have time to do more, “we will accept more walk in minor lumps and bumps and dental extractions”. They will announce this by Wednesday, she added.

Just like on Lucy’s first surgical mission, the major operations will be at the OSPA-Farmer’s Medical Center; minor surgeries and cleft palate operations at the Gatchalian Hospital and dental and optha cases at the Ormoc District Hospital.

Local doctors have also signified to assist in the operations, saying it was a privilege to work with the SPSA because most of them are already on top of their fields in the US and working with them at the operating room offered them a chance to learn from them. Last year, Dr. Dario Capuyan, had his gallstones removed during the mission after helping out in the operations.

Meanwhile, Rama also made it clear that only the surgery, hospitalization and take home medicines are free. The cost of initial screening like laboratory tests were not included because some of these were needed months ago, when the pre-listing was done. She added she has always made this clear, even in their radio announcements.

Mayor Codilla’s publicists a big issue out of this against Lucy on her first surgical mission in 2011. She now points out that the ISHI mission vindicates her, that she was right all the time to bring the SPSA surgical mission to her district.

“Even if he always attacks me, I’m very happy that somehow I have inspired him to follow my footsteps”, she said. She added it would also give people food for thought. “Would they have sponsored one if I did not sponsor the SPSA here in 2011?”, she posed.

The SPSA medical mission is part of their “Operation Giving Back” program. In their last visit to Ormoc in 2011, the team operated on 119 people with life-threatening conditions including a housemaid whose face and upper arm were deformed because of severe burns.  The others had goiter, brain, cervical tumors and other maladies.

Another 212 with “lumps and bumps” were also operated on while 72 people had cataract and eye operations. 421 had dental extractions. All in all, the SPSA treated 824 people in 2011 which the Filipino-American surgeons said was a “record breaker” for them.

So much yet to be done

That there is still so much to be done here is poignantly related by “Carly”, a member of the ISHI mission. In a post at their blogsite, she said: “We have encountered so many patients that have never been able to see a doctor before. For example, I saw a woman in her 70s who complained of back pain and headaches for 3 years. Upon further history, the patient had fallen down the stairs 3 years ago and was enable to pay to be seen in the emergency room. In the US, we see a doctor and worry about paying the bill later. According to the patients, in Ormoc you only see a doctor if you can pay them up front.

Thus, the surgical team has been busy helping patients with disfiguring and life-threatening issues, some of them have lived years or decades with their complaints. Parents will wait the whole day to be seen, just so they can be sure their babies’ ailments are addressed. Today, Dr. Graciosa gave the father of a pediatric patient his own lunch because they had waited all day to be seen and couldn’t eat lunch.”

Carly’s account is a stark reminder that it took one pretty lady named Lucy Torres-Gomez to start a chain of surgical-medical missions in Ormoc City and that one does not need a new hospital to do it, only political will.


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