CLARK FREEPORT – Amid statistics showing 3.9 million Filipinos visually impaired, including some 600,000 blind, the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital (FEH), has touched down here and immediately provided eye treatments, including surgeries, for local indigents for free, in a mission lasting two weeks.
Among the members of the aircraft’s medical staff is Leo Mercado, 61, a native of Mabalacat City in this province, who is noted to be the longest serving staff member of the FEH, assistant director for Orbis operations Denise Baker told Punto.
“I have been serving in the flying hospital for the past 19 years and had been in 64 countries where the hospital had flown for the same mission,” Mercado said during a short break from a surgery to go to the comfort room. His wife and daughter, both nurses living in Mabalacat, were also on board yesterday as volunteers attending to indigent patients undergoing surgeries.
Baker noted that Mercado and other members of the Orbis staff are in various parts of the world most of the year, and spends only about 30 days per year with their families.
“We expect about 60 indigent patients undergoing treatments, including surgeries for cataract, in the first week and as many in the second week for this Orbis mission at Clark,” Jonee Watson, Orbis communications officer, said in an interview.
The Orbis DC-10 aircraft flew in here with 20 staff members including three ophthalmologists,seven nurses and 10 other staff members who were welcomed by their counterparts from the Central Luzon Ophthalmology Society who were slated to attend lectures at a conference room on board the plane, as well as to assist in treating indigent patients.
The indigent patients were earlier screened at the Jose B LIngad Memorial Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga.
Watson noted that apart from the conference room, the FEH also has a laser treatment room, a surgery room, and a recovery room. She said that the Orbis FEH was last here in 2004 for the same mission as sponsored by FedEx which, in 2011, allocated US$5.3 million commitment for the Orbis FEH to carry out its mission to treat preventable blindness, especially among children of indigent families, as well as to fund ophthalmic fellowships.
FedEx, however, has been involved in the Orbis project for 30 years now. New York-based Orbis is a non-profit, humanitarian organization aiming “to prevent and treat blindness through handson training, public health education, improved access to quality eye care, advocacy and partnerships with local health care organizations.”
By next month, the aircraft will be in Mongolia, then in Peru to carry out its mission.