Our mission (which we gladly chose to accept) is to ensure the safe circumcision of 175 young boys and quality dental care for 175 people in one day – for free!
6 doctors, 6 dentists, 26 nurses, 15 international and 30 local volunteers make up the crack team who will carry out the mission.
Why a medical mission?
Medical care in the Philippines is very expensive for the average Filipino – many can’t afford to have their children circumcised privately and dental procedures are often too costly.
One day medical missions ensure that free treatment is given to those who can’t afford to pay for it. It means they are treated by professionals in a safe hygienic environment.
VFV contacts the Barangay where the medical mission will be held in advance to get a list of patients who will be treated on the day of the mission. Those not on the lists can come to the medical mission and be put on a waiting list so that once the pre-arranged lists are finished they can be seen.
The mission begins….
0600 hours 21 Apr:
An advanced party of VFV staff accompanied by army volunteers sets off from Bliss for La Paz. The Sangguniang Bayan building is where the action will take place!
Once there they set up the dental and circumcision areas and make sure all the medical equipment is ready. Big signs are put up explaining what the patients need to do when they arrive.
0500 hours 22 Apr:
Patients have already started arriving! VFV staff are waking up and getting prepared for a long day.
In Bliss bleary eyed VFV volunteers and sponsored scholars leave the VFV Center for La Paz.
Volunteers are busy sterilizing the circumcision equipment. It is washed then boiled and put into 2 different kinds of sterilizing fluids. Loubelle a volunteer nurse from Canada says that this process is better than she has seen in her rural clinic placement. The doctors, nurses and dentists are getting ready for action.
Outside more volunteers are busy registering patients and giving them their priority numbers.
The army are giving free haircuts to boys waiting for their circumcision. A long queue of boys form!
Inside the first dental patients are being seen and the first circumcisions done. The volunteers in the dispensary section are busy giving out medication to patients that have already had their procedures done. As well as their necessary medication all dental patients receive a free toothbrush.
Outside in the queue I find Arnie who is here with her 16 year old daughter Rizza.
Rizza has been in pain for one month but her family can’t afford to pay for a dentist. ‘Private dentists are too expensive. We always wait for a medical mission so we can be treated’ she tells me.
She is very grateful that the medical mission has come to La Paz.
Next I speak to Ester who has brought her 9 year old nephew Prince Jovan for circumcision.
His mum abandoned him when he was a small child and his dad is in a low paid job. She tells me that they came here to get him circumcised because it’s free, otherwise they could not get it done. She explains that circumcision is a very important tradition here in the Philippines and he would be bullied by his peers if he is not circumcised.
Circumcision is a controversial topic. Researching it I could find as many medical articles against circumcision as I could find for it. At present it is still seen as a rite of passage for boys here in the Philippines. If not circumcised they will face teasing at school and there is huge social pressure to get it done. Whatever your views on circumcision at least by having it done during the medical mission these boys are being operated on by fully trained professionals with properly sterilized instruments and given the necessary post operation medication.
More than 100 boys have been circumcised. The majority of the people on the dental list have been treated.
Surgical instruments are put down, dispensing stops and all the volunteers head upstairs for their well-deserved lunch!
The doctors and dentists finish lunch promptly and head back downstairs to continue the mission.
The final patients are anxiously waiting their turn. Esmeralda has suffered three months of dental pain and needs two of her teeth removing. I ask her why she waited so long to be seen: ‘Because the medical mission is free’. It costs between p100 to p300 to have one tooth extracted privately.
The last patient has been seen. 195 boys have been safely circumcised. 183 dental patients have been treated. Mission more than accomplished! Now for the tidying up….
The last instrument has been sterilized and put away, the last table wiped down and the group photo taken. Mission complete!
Help us make next year even better!
Medical mission veteran and VFV Volunteer co-ordinator Ester informed me that this year’s mission has been the best yet. More patients than ever before have been treated thanks to a larger number of volunteers than ever before.
The present Filipino government has vowed to improve its healthcare system. It aims to extend the reach and services of the national health insurance scheme (Philhealth). Improvements will take time however. Medical missions will continue to be necessary to provide care for those who can’t afford treatment.
The VFV Medical Mission 2016 is over but VFV don’t take a break – however well deserved. They get straight down to raising funds and preparing for 2017.
How can I help the VFV Medical Mission 2017 be even better than this years?
Are you a doctor, nurse or dentist? Do you have a passion for giving medical care to those who need it but can’t afford it?
Contact email@example.com and join next year’s crack team!
Story and photos: Liz Avery – VFV Media Intern