‘Smiles for free’: San Pablo hospital holds med mission to mark 14th year

by Joseph Addison Calapine

FREE CLEFT SURGERY. San Pablo General Hospital marks 14th anniversary with free cleft surgery.

Through its partnership with Advance Craniofacial Project Philippines Inc. (ACPPI) and Smile Train Philippines, the San Pablo City General Hospital (SPCGH) held its “Libreng Opera para sa Bingot at Ngongo Program” on April 22 to 25, 2024 at Barangay San Jose, San Pablo City as part of its 14th anniversary celebration.

“Nagkaroon lamang ng kabuuang sampung pasyente ang nag-qualify at nakapasa sa screening para sa operasyon. Maunti lamang dahil nagkaroon na ng kaparehong aktibidad noong Enero. (There were only a total of ten patients who qualified and passed the screening for surgery. Only ten because there was already similar activity done in January),” said Hospital Administrator Fatima Chan-Berguila.

She noted that the number might be few since the same medical mission was done in January of this year.

According to Smile Train, world’s leading cleft charity, there are varying opinions on the incidence of cleft worldwide but some experts believe that the highest cleft incidence are among Asians.In the Philippines, cleft lip and palate is one of the most common congenital disorders as 4000 children are born with this condition every year. It is about 1 in every 500 Filipino Children born each day according to an NGO for cleft, Abounding in Love.

Joshua Abecendario HR Coordinator of Advance Craniofacial Project Philippines Inc. (ACPPI) said that San Pablo City might have lack of access to medical specialists for its residents with cases of cleft. He added that the patient might face financial limitations or logistical challenges in seeking treatment elsewhere so by bringing their services to the city, they can ensure that those in need of surgical interventions can access them without the worries of traveling and other costs.

On Operation Smile in the Philippines, the Australia and New Zealand Association (ANZA) published that the country left this issue unattended as it lacked organized public programs. The cleft surgical operation costs about P50,000 which is too expensive for Filipinos with clefts since the majority are born from extremely poor households.

Up to this day, the main cause of cleft is still unknown but according to Gene Tiongco of St. Lukes Medical Center, risk factors are genes, poor maternal nutrition, taking unprescribed medicine, delayed pregnancy, and poor maternal prenatal care.

Joshua Abecendario, HR Coordinator of ACPPI said, “Ang aming layunin ay hindi lamang upang i-correct ang mga pisikal na deformity ngunit din upang mapabuti ang emosyonal na kagalingan at mapamahal sa social integration (Our goal is not only to correct physical deformities but also to improve emotional well-being and foster social integration).”

It is common for a child born with cleft to experience difficulty in speaking, breathing, and eating, but mostly one who has this condition is subjected to bullying and social isolation.

After San Pablo City General Hospital’s significant collaboration with ACPPI and Smile train, SPCGH is looking forward to its 15th anniversary as they assure the public of more projects that will deliver good services to its people.