Sunday, October 14, 2012


Medical missions to the Philippines will continue even as Filipino American physicians meet with the country’s top envoy here to discuss their concerns later this month.

Meeting in Newark, NJ, the Association of Philippine Physicians in America (APPA) voted to send a medical mission to Payatas, Quezon City in February. The group has had a longstanding commitment to this community that used to be garbage dump, after serving there in 1992 and opening a free clinic at Litex Village in 2008.

APPA president Dr. Jose Tejero said they decided to continue the medical mission, notwithstanding the dispute with the Professional Regulation Commission over new requirements for visiting medical missioners.

“The APPA’s House of Delegates under the leadership of its speaker, Dr. Carlos Patalinghug, Sr., had passed a resolution that APPA will serve as a reconciliatory body to interact between the various mission groups here in America and to the PRC and other local governmental agencies in the Philippines in the conduct of foreign surgical-medical missions,” the group’s statement said.

The PRC had relented from its June 21 directive that ordered foreign professionals – including Filipino-Americans conducting short-duration medical missions – to register and secure special permits and buy liability insurance, among others.

Following an uproar from Fil-Am physicians, the PRC suspended parts of their new rule.  

Dr. Alexander Fangonil, a former APPA president, told the Manila Mail that they are working closely with Philippine officials in the US. Consul-General Mario de Leon attended the APPA’s Fall meeting.

“The Philippine consulates have been helping the APPA through the years by authenticating, validating the medicines and sensitive equipment that we hand-carry,” he explained.

For foreign missions to better serve the needy Filipinos, De Leon urged the APPA to identify priority target areas in the Philippines, get the support and cooperation of the local government, and to identify local partners who are willing to work with the foreign missioners in their communities.

He revealed local government agencies are again meeting this month to discuss the situation of medical missions.

During the conference, the participants bared their experiences and problems in past medical missions –

*Mission groups by-passing the PRC and its requirements

*No local counterparts to follow through on medical and surgical complications when the missioners leave

*Donating expired medicines and defective medical equipment

*Invitation by provincial governors (or highly-placed families) giving blanket coverage to do missions in their province or place-of- influence

*Treating patients that has the ability to pay or has health insurance

*Local practitioners, dentists, pharmacists, and “herbolarios” view missioners as “livelihood-competitors”

*Paramedical, civic, and religious groups pay local “Doctors-for Hire” to handle the mission or give them the medicines, supplies and medical equipment for them to do one

*Local specialty organizations, like the Ophthalmologist, are mostly anti-missions, when hundreds of cataracts are operated on, leaving them months or even longer without patients to see

*Local physicians are already doing missions in their respective communities; foreign missions are not needed anymore

*Professional jealousy or envy towards foreign-trained expats

*Expats doctors are called disloyal or traitors in medical school curriculum

*Anti-mission/pro-mission local groups

Fangonil shared his own experience with Manila Mail, during a 2007 medical mission in Baguio City.  He was APPA president at the time, and brought 37 physicians , 23 nurses and 3 nurses, among others. 

The Baguio executives bluntly told the APPA missioners they were not welcome and were forbidden from using facilities of Baguio General Hospital although they would accept the Fil-Am group’s donation of medicines, surgical supplies and medical equipment.

However, another group welcomed the APPA missioners and allowed the use of the Benguet General Hospital. “The same fate awaited the Ohio mission in 2009 and Northern California in 2010.

Dr. Johnny Montero is scheduled to meet with Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. on October 19 to thresh out their concerns and ensure medical missions to the Philippines continue in the years ahead. 

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