Saturday, February 18, 2012

“Because it’s there”

COLUMN SERIES FHC-002
NAME: FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY
TITLE: “Because it’s there”
By Ka Iking Señeres

Why do you climb mountains? Ask this question to any mountaineer and he will tell you, “because it’s there”. Why am I promoting telemedicine? Ask me this question, and I will give you the same answer, “because it’s there”. As a matter of fact, telemedicine has been around for many years, but unfortunately, it is not yet that widely used, to the disadvantage of the poor and sick people who could potentially be cured by this very powerful technology. Thanks to the convergence of some friendly forces, telemedicine in this country could be given a big boost soon.

The National Development Service Command (NADESCOM) is the integrated development arm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). It combines the infrastructure development and civic action components of the Philippine Army, the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Air Force. As part of its mandate, NADESCOM builds feeder roads, water systems, school buildings and health centers in depressed areas all over the country, particularly in areas that are affected by armed conflicts.

Since the NADESCOM was organized, it has already built about 600 health centers nationwide. However, due to its defined function that is limited to construction only, and due to its budget limitations, it has been unable to provide these health centers with the equipment and supplies necessary to operationalize them. Going beyond their defined functions, the NADESCOM is now reaching out to other government agencies and the private sector, for them to donate the needed equipment and supplies. As of now, the NADESCOM has already solicited several donated goods that are already being used by some of the health centers, but the demand for the needed equipment and supplies has been largely unmet.

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) is a government corporation that is mandated to raise funds for charity and welfare projects by way of sweepstakes, lotteries and scratch cards. It is part of the mandate of PCSO to fund hospitals and health centers. All of the health centers built by NADESCOM are located in government lots, and all of them have been donated to the local government units (LGUs) where they are located. Since these health centers are actually government owned, they would qualify for PCSO funding. NADESCOM and PCSO have already agreed in principle to work together in order to equip the 600 health centers, but the operational details and mechanics are yet to be worked out by both agencies.

Our Barangay, Inc. (OBI) is one of the first private organizations approached by NADESCOM for assistance. The objective of OBI is to connect all local villages to the internet, and to enable these villages so that they could computerize their administrative functions. In line with this objective, OBI has agreed to solicit computers for the health centers, and to find ways to connect them to the internet. In particular, OBI wants to assist to connect the health centers to the internet, so that they could take advantage of telemedicine as a technology for increasing access to health care services through the use of voice, video and data transmissions via the internet. Using the international network of OBI among overeas Filipinos, it would hopefully become possible for Filipino doctors abroad to extend their services to local patients using remote telemedicine solutions.

The Corinthian Coffee Clutch (C3) is another private organization that was approached by NADESCOM for assistance. C3 is a think tank that is devoted to nation building. As an organization, it does not directly go into projects, but it supports the projects that are managed by its members. C3 supports the framework for integrated area development (IAD), which includes access to health services. In line with the advocacies of C3, it is now supporting a project in Caloocan City that aims to transform an old motor hotel into a new medical center. One of the objectives of this project is to equip the medical center so that it could become a command and control center for the telemedicine network that will be established to remotely support the 600 health centers. Aside from supporting telemedicine, the new medical center is also envisioned to become a school for alternative and complimentary medicine, in line with the goal of developing new practical and economical approaches towards increasing access to health services in the Philippines.

Text from reader Ojie Angeles: “i read ur column. very biblical, found in Corinthians which categorically says of these, the greatest is L0VE or charity. ur column title aptly say without all 3 nothing can be accomplished or all 3 should be present n everything we do. ur column is d mother of all columns. captures everything”.

For feedback, email iseneres@yahoo.com or text +639997333011

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