Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada is eyeing the establishment of a world-class medical center that would focus on the treatment and rehabilitation of patients with cleft lips and palates and other facial disfigurement, which the city government of Manila said is considered as the first facility of such kind in the country.
Estrada recently met with Dr. William Magee, Jr., co-founder and chief executive officer of Operation Smile to finalize plans for the construction and operation of the educational, research, and treatment facility in the City of Manila.
“This is a big endeavor we are embarking on to help people born with cleft lips and cleft palate, especially here in Manila. We will help these ostracized people get back and become productive members of the society,” Estrada said.
Estrada said he is particularly concerned with the thousands of children who were born with the condition and are unable to live normal lives because of their deformities.
In their initial discussions, Estrada and Magee agreed to take the first steps in the realization of the ambitious project.
Operation Smile is an international volunteer-based medical charity that has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities since 1982. It is based in Virginia, US.
Magee expressed his gratitude to Estrada’s support, saying the mayor was “very receptive” in the plan to build the facility, and has been very supportive of Operation Smile since he was President.
“We hope to establish a center here in Manila that will really become a world-class educational center where people from all over the world will be coming to be educated and trained in taking care of children with cleft,” Magee pointed out.
With such facility, he said medical professionals such as surgeons, speech therapists, psychologists, dentists, and orthodontics from all over the world will come to Manila to hone their skills and offer their services to local people with cleft lips and palates.
The Philippines, according to Magee, is “perfect” for such medical facility “because the need exists, the talent exists here, and the opportunity, the heart and soul of the Filipino people is recognized all over the world.”
The primary benefits of having such kind of facility, Magee stressed, is that thousands and thousands of children with cleft condition will be provided with free and quality surgery and rehabilitation every year.
“Without surgery, they’re outcast. They can’t speak intelligibly, they’re shunned, and so they can never become productive citizens of the country,” he pointed out.
In Metro Manila alone, he said 5,000 to 7,000 children with cleft lips and palates have never been treated and have no access to any form of medical care.
Only last February, Estrada has inked a memorandum of agreement with Operation Smile Philippines (OSP) for this year’s “Gift of Smiles” program intended to provide free surgery and rehabilitation to cleft-defective children.
Under the agreement, OSP, in cooperation with volunteer doctors and other medical professionals, will conduct free screening, surgery, and post-medical care to patients referred by the Manila Health Department (MHD).
OSP will then conduct the reconstructive surgeries at the Manila Cleft Care Center (MCCC) at the city-run Sta. Ana Hospital.
Allocated by the city government of Manila on the 8th floor of the Sta. Ana Hospital, MCCC serves as a treatment and surgery center for children afflicted with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. Post-operative care such as speech therapy and dental care are also made available to patients.
Cleft incidence among newborns in the Philippines is said to be one in every 500 newborns, which means that around 4,004 Filipinos out of 2,064 million born every year have this deformity.
The Department of Health (DOH) said the number of new cases reaches up to 5,000 every year.
A report from the Philippine Birth Defect Registry — a partnership of DOH and the US National Institute of Health’s Institute of Human Genetics — said cleft lip and palates are among the top 12 birth defects in the country.