HUNDREDS OF IPS IN MT. PROVINCE GET FREE MEDICAL AID
Hundreds of residents in Paracelis, Mountain Province received free medical, dental, wellness and blood sugar testing services from Happy Hearts as part of the celebration of women’s month. Photo shows an elder patient being attended to by Dr. Marie Jorilyn Bahingawan of Itogon, Benguet. (PNA photo by Pamela Mariz Geminiano)
PARACELIS, Mountain Province -- Hundreds of Indigenous Peoples (IP) in this town were given free medical, dental and wellness services by a group composed of women to celebrate the National Women’s Month.
"We are very happy, lucky and thankful to Happy Hearts because a medical mission was conducted here after several years considering the long hours of travel," said Councilor Djarma Rafael who chairs the local legislative council’s committee on women and children on Sunday.
Paracelis, about eight hours away from Baguio City, was reached by the group around 6 a.m. on March 9 for an outreach program in celebration of the National Women’s Day every March, which is simultaneous with the worldwide observance of the International Women’s Day.
The outreach lasted until evening, with some of the patients coming from far-flung villages to avail of free services and supplies.
Rafael said the group provided free medical checkup; dental services, blood sugar screening, and wellness. Medicines were also given free as part of the women’s month celebration.
The councilor said many women and children in the town are underserved in terms of health providers and medical assistance considering the geographical location of the municipality.
"Paracelis has a big population, even the district hospital cannot accommodate the whole area and of course the number of health workers is also a problem," she said.
Paracelis, a second-class municipality which relies heavily on agriculture, has a population of 26,476.
"There are a lot of women and children here who cannot afford to go to the hospital and have themselves checked so this is a great opportunity for them to take advantage of the presence of medical practitioners who are giving their services for free and even giving free medicines," she said.
Rafael said that due to their distance from the center of the province in Bontoc, it is seldom that organizations conduct outreach and provide free medical assistance for the residents of Paracelis.
She said that with the financial condition of the families, especially for the mothers, health is the least of their priority.
She said the local government is trying to do its best to provide quality health services for the constituents, but is still not enough. As such, Rafael expressed gratitude that “Happy Hearts” visited them.
"There are some medical activities here being conducted by the Rural Health Unit (RHU) but it is not enough, not everyone can avail of it especially those who are living in the outskirts," she said.
Alice Lambayog, 21, who came with her two children said it breaks her heart that she cannot bring her children to the doctor even if they are not feeling well.
"Hindi naman kami mayaman para makapag-pagamot sa hospital. Hirap na kaming makapaghanap ng pera para sa pagkain sa pang-araw -araw, kaya malaking bagay yung mga ganitong bagay sa amin, libreng patingin, libreng gamot (We're not rich to have ourselves checked at the hospital. We have difficulty earning money to sustain our daily lives and to be able to avail of free checkup and free medicine is really a big help to us)," she said.
She brought her two-year-old son whose head had been filled with sored scabies and her daughter, who has cough and colds.
They are among the 328 indigent women and children in the town who received medical aid. A handful of men also availed of the free services.
Aside from medical and dental, a wellness service was also provided by two physical therapists who gave treatment sessions and taught the patients how to manage back pains and “frozen shoulders” that can affect the movements.
Happy Hearts is a group composed of high school batchmates from St. Louis Girls High School in Baguio City to volunteer their services.
Dr. Marie Jorilyn Bahingawan of Itogon, who joined the group in Paracelis said it was a happy experience giving time and her skills to other people, not only from her town in Benguet.
Happy Hearts resident dentist Rowena Aquino Pascual told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that for almost 10 years now, several outreach activities like medical missions, feeding, gift giving or a mixture of such services have been conducted in several towns in La Union and Pangasinan.
She said that those activities were done in partnership with other Baguio-based groups and organizations, and even individuals who give their services for free. The event was also supported by The Generics Pharmacy of JG Summit Holdings.
"With our registered physicians, dentists, physical therapists, medical technologists and nurses, we have provided medical and dental services, physical therapy wellness lecture and treatment sessions and did blood sugar testing," she said.
Pascual also said that the outreach was made possible with the help of several other supporters who continue to believe in the group’s endeavors. (PNA)