By Jaimie Rose R. Aberia
The city government of Manila is eyeing the establishment of a world-class medical center that will focus on the treatment and rehabilitation of patients with cleft lip and palates and other facial disfigurement.
Manila Mayor Joseph 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.
In their initial discussions, Estrada and Magee agreed to take the first steps in the realization of the ambitious project.
“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 said.
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 lip and palate.
The Philippines, according to Magee, is “perfect” for such a medical facility “because the need exists, the talent exists here, and the opportunity, the heart and soul of the Filipino people are recognized all over the world.”
The primary benefit of having such facility, Magee said, 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 outcasts. They can’t speak intelligibly, they’re shunned, and so they can never become productive citizens of the country,” he said.
In Metro Manila alone, he said 5,000 to 7,000 children with cleft lip and palate have never been treated and have no access to any form of medical care.
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 palate are among the top 12 birth defects in the country.