PAMA gives the Gift of Life by Benjie de Ubago

While most people go on holidays to escape their everyday routines, the doctors from the Philippine Australian Medical Association (PAMA) do exactly the reverse. Rather than slipping off their white coats and leaving them behind, they pack them along with their medical paraphernalia to render a humbling service of providing medical service to the disadvantaged in the remote areas of the Philippines.

This is PAMA’s 5th successful medical mission which is being coordinated by Dr. Roger Fabian. This year’s mission will include five doctors, six nurses and approximately a dozen volunteers. The other medics traveling with Dr. Fabian are: Dr. Ophee De Vera, Dr. Evelyn Icao, Dr. Cecile Rowe and Dr. Belinda Lorenzo.

The medical envoys are off to the towns of Pagadian and Aurora in Zamboanga del Sur from 21-25 May. They are scheduled for major surgeries in Pagadian, and for minor surgical operations, dental as well as medical consultations in Aurora. The team will then proceed to El Nido, Palawan from 28-30 May for minor surgeries, dental and medical consultations.

In true altruistic fashion, the PAMA doctors who commit to the mission pay their own way and often bring other family members to assist. With makeshift facilities and operating under bare essentials, they provide the much needed quality care which is not only rare but practically nonexistent. They help alleviate the pain and suffering of those living in remote places.

Dr. Fabian shares his experience: “When I first joined the team three years ago, I was sure that they would benefit from my services. However, it’s the other way around. It is I who has benefited from the venture. The smile and look we get from the patients more than compensate for the difficulties. It is truly a very satisfying experience.”

The missions are a synchronized team effort planned prior and executed like clockwork upon arrival at their destinations. The provincial/city or municipal governments and agencies usually come into play by providing the team a site for their operations. The Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) assist by providing local nurses, health and support staff as well as transport, meals and those little meriendas. The Ugnayan ng Pahinungod Volunteer Corps (UP-PGH) gear up with the medical supplies and medications although the burden of expense is shouldered by PAMA. The local branch of Philippine Medical Association and the Philippine Dental Association also provide extra assistance on the ground.

Already over 6,000 patients have benefited over the past years from such missions of mercy.

At Polilio Island, Quezon (6-9 April 2008) they treated 949 patients and donated an X-Ray Machine for local use; at Gubat, Sorsogon (13-17 April 2009), in cooperation with UGAY Australia, the numbers treated jumped to 2055 patients; Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental (21-25 June 2010) 1,162 patients queued for treatment; and last year at Oroquieta City, Misamis Occcidental (11-17 April 2011) 1,939 came for treatment.

The last year’s mission at Misamis Occidental included an Australian Surgical Team headed by Dr. Bill Walker, a retired plastic surgeon from Newcastle who has helped transform lives dramatically.

“We are hoping that we can expand these medical missions in the future to be able to accommodate more patients and reach more areas,” said Dr. Fabian.

At a time, when health is considered a prime commodity, our PAMA doctors give the best gift of all – the gift of life.