Saturday, October 01, 2011


I visited Philippine General Hospital today. Why? I don't know. I just wanted to see what things are like on the ground. Being the son of a pediatrician, it only makes sense that I should go and see what things are like for kids out there in Manila's hospitals. Thank you Kimmy, for granting my request to see what things were like at PGH and what they do over at (below).

I learned that cleft palate is ngo-ngo & it's a bit tragic. Ngo-ngo is when genetic factors coupled with a badly managed pregnancy, results in a face not fully "formed". Although non-life threatening, it affects a person psychologically (think: ngo-ngo joke) and affects a person's development as a confident adult. And since lack of education about planning a pregnancy is a major factor here, well, it's mostly the lower economic strata of the Philippines that is affected. Note to self and YOU ALL: No more ngo-ngo jokes.

I'll tell you some stuff that I learned this morning: There are 4,500 cases of ngo-ngo born every year. In PGH alone, over 100 surgeries are completed annually. The PH has double the rate of that of the US or any other developed nation (US: 1 in 1,000; PH: 1 in 500). Most, if not, ALL of these cases require post-procedure therapy. There are only Two, yes TWO universities in the Philippines that teach speech therapy. UP and UST. Do a little math and you can see that we still have a long way to go. Folks, take speech therapy over nursing or PT. There is a huge demand.

Even though some might think that connecting high incidence of ngo-ngo in the PH to the RH Bill might be a stretch, I think the issues are totally connected. Cleft lips are mostly a product of badly managed pregnancies, Ngo-ngo mostly happens among the lower economic strata of the PH, and incidents keep increasing in the PH. And to not see the connection between education, reproductive health access to the poorer sectors and gov't population management in solving this problem, is to well, just be arrogantly ignorant or delusional. Without agencies like, it would be IMPOSSIBLE for the overstretched PH gov't health system to solve this problem on it's own.

I also heard that PGH is not under the Department of Health but is mostly run by the University of the Philippines Manila College of Medicine. Cool! From being part of the underfunded Philippine public health system, it's now been transferred to the auspices of the underfunded Philippine educational system. But hope springs eternal, I see that many wings have been renovated due to private efforts (Senate spouses, Alumni orgs, Corporate endeavors), and even a spanking new Reproductive Health wing is being constructed. I certainly hope the Ortolls (the name on the building) support reproductive health access (both natural & artificial) for Filipinos.

Sigh. I still dream of the day when the Philippine health system would no longer be overstretched. A day when there will be just the right amount of doctors with the right amount of hospitals catering to the right amount of patients and everyone is given an equal chance of a healthy life in ALL economic sectors of the Philippines. But given the spirit of the health workers that I met at PGH and today, that day is getting closer and closer. (above: birthing room under construction at the Ortoll Reproductive Health Center at PGH.)

Please please PLEASE donate to and pass the #RHBill.