Monday, November 14, 2011

Filipino Clinicians and Filipino Businesses partner with ICM providing health care for the poor.
Tagbiliran, Bohol.
Minierva Lahaylahay

Yesterday I had the privilege of observing the “brain child” of ICM Program Development leader Minierva Lahaylahay.    A one day, minor surgery medical clinic run by doctors from Cebu City’s Perpetual Succour hospital.Funding was provided through the local Lions club, President George Lim, who coordinated the local businesses including the brand new surgery area in the local hospital Holy Name University Medical Center Foundation.

Surgical Team from Cebu City
Having local organizations and regional doctors partner to provide care is one step closer to providing continuity of care for the poorest of the poor.
Head Surgeon
Program Development leader Minierva was responsible for contacting and screening the area’s potential clinic patients through the network of community leaders, the local pastors that ICM supports via training, networking, food and care clinics.   After it was obvious that Minierva’s preplanning and organizational skills had resulted in a smooth running operation, I had time to ask her about her vision and the obvious successful result.  She credited the leadership of ICM Area Head Primo Sistual for allowing her to conceive the idea; foster the community relationships resulting in financial and clinical support from Lion president George Lim and the lead surgeon and work in the pastor network of ICM to identify clinic patients.  Over 500 community members who live in a 3 to 4 hour bus ride were originally identified.  When the scope of the need overwhelmed the resources available Minierva worked with the lead surgeon to focus the purpose of the clinic on minor surgery, requiring only local anesthesia.  The potential patients were told those with cysts and lumps would be prioritized.  She was able to cull the list down to over 100, still a daunting number for a one day clinic.  The lead surgeon came two weeks in advance to prescreen those who requested care to determine if their need fit in the scope of practice for that day, only 15 arrived.  On the day of the clinic when I arrived at 8am at the ICM base, where intake and triage was done, there were already 30+ on the list, which eventually grew to 82.
Intake starting at 8am already a line and a very warm day
The first 15 were sent to the hospital, conveniently located just down the street for the 11am start time.  I joined the staff with the local Lions club members to welcome the surgical staff arriving from their 2 hour ferry ride, as Cebu City is on a different island from Tagbiliran.  We greeted four surgeons; two general, one orthopedic and one vascular along with a surgical intern and surgical resident with 4 assisting nurses. 
All ages were present at the clinic with cysts, lumps and bumps.  Priority was given to those who had a 2 to 4 hour bus ride and would need to be on the return bus late afternoon.  Some were treated and others referred to the lab for X-ray or ultrasound.  Some would have to return when the team scheduled a general surgery clinic requiring general anesthesia. 
Marnett, Jen & Lou, 1/2 the Bohol Health Team
I lost track of the ones I met in the early hours as I had to leave to catch a plane only 3 hours into the clinic, but I was present to hear the sober prognosis of one woman with lymph nodes that where swollen and ulcerated.  She had seen a local doctor; he had diagnosed stage 3 cancer and offered, if she could pay, to remove them.  We are serving the poorest of the poor, so most likely all her resources had been used to get the original diagnosis.  She had shown up that day in hopes of accessing free surgery to remove the lymph nodes.  After one of the attending surgeons assessed her situation it fell to ICM COO Helen Turner, Special Medical Cases leader Lou Cosenas and Minierva to break the somber news.  She had terminal cancer and while a local doctor might be offering surgery that she could not afford, it was recommended that she go home and spend time with her family and allow ICM to help support her with palliative care.  It was a difficult time.  Minierva is a compassionate woman, and this was not what she or any of us would have wished for this woman.
Clinic site

Later in the day as I visited with Bohol Area Head Primo Sistual I reflected on how fantastic it is to see local businesses supporting regional doctors in providing necessary care to the poorest of the Philippines.  It is through local pastors, businesses, and physicians galvanized by International Care Ministries that the generational bondage of poverty can be broken.  A new generation of Filipino leaders like Ms Minierva and Mr Primo, focused on the needs of the most vulnerable have inspired and provided a way for their community to reach out in compassion to provide health care for the poorest members of their community.