Surgical mission starts in Majayjay, Laguna
The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) conducted its first surgical mission as part of its bid to extend its reach to more Filipinos, particularly in remote areas.
“Having come from the military, my office was frequently in the hinterlands and I have seen the poverty of many Filipinos. They can’t even afford the fare to their capitols, much less the cost of medicine and quality medical services,” said PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan.
“So, we’ll bring the medicine and services to them,” Balutan said as he ordered the PCSO Medical Services Department (MSD) to arrange the free medical-dental and surgical mission.
The site of the first medical-dental and surgical mission on March 23 was the town of Majayjay in Laguna (population 27,000), which is only 122 kilometers from Manila but takes four hours to reach by land.
Majayjay Mayor Carlo Invinzor Clado welcomed the medical mission and prepared facilities for the use of the team, recruited local physicians to join the activity and encouraged his constituents to participate through announcements on social media.
Aside from the doctors from the town and the PCSO team, two renowned surgeons from the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center (CGHMC)—Doctors Robert Sy and Anthony Lim—also joined the mission.
“I cannot thank the doctors, particularly Doctors Sy and Lim, enough for providing their services for free,” said Dr. Mabel Vinteres, who led the PCSO MSD team, adding that the two surgeons performed 41 operations during the mission.
The mission was able to assist a total of 334 beneficiaries, 206 of whom needed only clinical consultation and medicine assistance, but there were also 87 dental cases and the 41 surgeries simultaneously performed by Lim and Sy.
“Most of these surgeries involved the removal of non-cancerous sebaceous cysts. They frequently occur when the follicle of body hair is damaged and causes a swelling in the glands that secrete [sebum],” said Sy, who is well-known for providing free medical services to deserving individuals throughout his 45-year career.
Lim said they were not able to remove the lump beside the left eye of four-year-old Clarenz Villarmil because they felt it had to be done in a hospital with proper facilities, but the case was referred to the CGHMC.
Most other patients, however, were thankful for the removal of sebaceous cysts, lipomas and fibroadenomas that they bore for several years because they could not afford to have them removed or were afraid of surgery.
Even PCSO employee Darcy Geronimo took the chance to have the two sebaceous cysts removed from his back. He was the first patient to be assisted by Lim.
The next most common condition were lipomas, usually painless and benign tumors made of fat tissue.
Fifty-five-year-old Constancia Modina, a Small Town Lottery (STL) collector in the province, had known of the tumor in her back for 10 years and had already been told by a doctor to undergo a biopsy, but she did not have it done because she could not afford the procedure.
The 31-year-old Maricel Bumagat, mother of three kids, went to the medical mission to have her sebaceous cyst removed, but later confessed to the doctors that she also had a two-year-old lump in her left breast which she could not have removed because a doctor had earlier told her that the operation would be expensive.
“It is a fibroadenoma,” Sy said. “It is very common and benign. But it can also lead to breast cancer if neglected. It can kill her, so it has to be removed.”
“I was afraid of surgery and we really didn’t have the money for an operation,” the teary-eyed Bumagat said in the vernacular. “So, I’m very grateful that PCSO held a medical mission in our hometown. I cannot thank Dr. Sy and Mayor Clado enough.”
Mayor Clado said the people of Majayjay are profusely thankful for the help they received from the PCSO, which also approved his request for an ambulance to bring his sick constituents to the provincial hospital which one-hour drive away.
“We are truly very thankful for the help of the PCSO,” the mayor said. “We are a town of farmers, so we have a high poverty line. We may be poor, but we do not forget those who have helped us,” he added.
Long way to go
Balutan, for his part, also thanked Clado, and CGHMC for helping him fulfill his personal mission to bring government closer to the people, particularly to those who live in far-flung areas.
“I would like to thank Mayor Clado and CGHMC, particularly Doctors Sy and Lim, for helping the PCSO assist those who need it the most. Bringing the government closer to the people is among my original personal goals when I started at the PCSO,” he said.
Balutan also encouraged local government units across the country to help implement President Rodrigo Duterte’s Universal Health Care Program by enlisting doctors and hospitals in their jurisdictions to volunteer their time and facilities for the cause.
“I am humbled by the generosity of Doctors Sy and Lim, who spend not only time but also their personal money to help the poor,” Balutan said. “We hope other doctors and hospitals in the country will follow their example because we still have ways to go,” he added.