We think our health system is tough!

Fr Dan O'Malley is the Parish Priest of Malate, Philippines. There are 25,000 parishioners in the parish who have little access to health care. Fr Dan reports:

The Vicariate Health Clinic is part of a project of the Archdiocese of Manila, Philippines to help the poor with their health needs. Each Vicariate (a number of parishes) has a health clinic which is supplied with medicines and money for laboratory needs.

When  the program was established, Malate parish was chosen as the location in the Vicariate.

The parish decided to invest in what they considered a project that was worthy of support and constructed a custom-built clinic at a cost of P2,300,000.00 (£33,775.00.) The equivalent of approximately $54,285.08 Australian dollars.

There are twelve active volunteer health workers and a salaried health staff, provided by the parish that help with the successful management of the clinic. There is a system in place to identify and organise beneficiaries. A qualified beneficiary is the holder of a 'red book'. Qualification for the 'red book' is non-sectarian and we have a number of Muslims and other Christian denominations. Those who come to the clinic, who do not have the ‘red book’ are treated if there is extra medicine or funds at the end of the month. We also have some access to other funding for emergencies.

With the offer of funding from Columban benefactors, we initially thought of opening a dental clinic, installing an X-ray machine in the room that is already constructed for that purpose and maintain a laboratory to do basic tests. However we decided against these initiatives after much debate and deliberation. The key factor in making the decision was ‘volunteerism’. The Clinic in its present form is based on almost 100% volunteerism (apart from the parish paying one wage for a clinic worker). This has one tremendous advantage: the clinic is ultimately sustainable with few overheads and still provides great service to the people. The downside of this decision is that this limits the types of services that we can provide.

For exmaple, if we were to have an X-ray machine, we would need to hire a professional (radiographer) to take care of the operation or volunteer staff would need to be trained ppropriately.

If we were to set up a laboratory we would need to hire a med-tech to oversee the facility and the volunteer staff would have to have professional training and they might not qualify.

In respect to opening a dental clinic, it would require buying and maintaining a lot of materials. In all probability, we would not get sufficient numbers of dentists on board and there would be the danger of under qualified students involved in complicated procedures. The same challenges would be there for the volunteer staff.

So to avoid, probable, unsustainable overheads and the responsibility for specialised procedures what became clear is that we were only capable of running an extraction clinic and not a dental clinic, at this stage. It is a sad situation; the urban poor have a culture of very deficient oral hygiene practice and do not have the resources to save their teeth.

Accepting that we do not have the capacity to address this situation at a deeper level, we decided to build up the extraction clinic by investing in specific equipment. Including an autoclave, a suction machine and sets of forceps. We are also going to take some small steps to address the general situation of oral hygiene by launching a pilot project (Zero Cavity Campaign) with our prep school students. If there is some success here we can expand it.

We are thankful for your generous donation. We will continue our present practice and with the new funding we will be able to expand our support of the laboratory, X-Ray and medicine expenses as well as buying some much needed new equipment. This will allow us to keep our basic structure and present basic services in place. Again we are focusing on long term sustainability.  The clinic allows medical people to help the poor without the burden of management.
Blessings of Peace.

Fr Dan O'Malley is the Parish Priest of Malate, Philippines.

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