Friday, March 08, 2013

Filipino survivors of a 2012 earthquake receive medical care during Operation Pacific Angel

by Senior Master Sgt. J.C. Woodring
Pacific Angel Public Affairs

3/8/2013 - DUMAGUETE, Philippines  -- U.S. servicemembers partnered with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to provide medical care for Filipino survivors of a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated their town in 2012, as part of a humanitarian effort currently underway here through March 9.

Operation Pacific Angel-Philippines, a humanitarian medical and civil engineering mission that kicked off March 4 at five worksites throughout Negros Oriental Province, included approximately 55 U.S. servicemembers from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines, members of the AFP and several local non-governmental organizations.

"We are here to help, and we have all of the patients organized and coming in very orderly," said Capt. Eddie Donovan, a medical service corps officer from Osan Air Base, South Korea, who organized patient flow with Tolentino. "About half of the patients were seen here, and the others were taken to Dumaguete."

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines drove approximately 100 patients from a nearby mountain area that was hit hardest by the quake to the PACANGEL-Philippines medical sites for treatment March 6.

"That's what Pacific Angel is about," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Alvin Alana, Pacific Angel-Philippines mission commander from the Hawaii National Guard. "Within our resources, we want to care for those who need our help most. These families have lost a lot, and if we can make their life a little better, it is the right thing to do."

Since the earthquake hit the province in February 2012, the survivors have been without a medical clinic in their area.

"It is so important for them to be here that they rode in the AFP trucks for four hours just to make it," said AFP 2nd Lt. Ruth Zandra Tolentino, a nurse who assisted with patient flow . "They are so thankful for the medical treatment."

She came to Negros Oriental Province from a neighboring island to participate in the operation.

The added workload didn't seem to faze the team providing the care. Both of the medical sites provided primary, dental and optometry care, as well as physical therapy.

"There was always a Filipino doctor working alongside his American counterpart," said Master Sgt. Kimona Woodward, a medical administrator from Misawa Air Base, Japan. "It was good to see them team up like that."

Despite the obvious benefits for the patients who receive free health services, the caregivers benefit from it as well.

"The Filipino dentist deals with these types of cases all of the time, and he is fast," said Capt. Cherie Gabriel, a dentist from Yokota Air Base, Japan. "Helping them with their teeth really matters to them."

The patients who received treatment didn't hide their gratitude for the assistance.

"It was amazing how much reading glasses can make someone's day," said Staff Sgt. Dwain Tolvert, an optometry technician from Kadena Air Base, Japan.
The mission didn't go unnoticed by local government officials.

"We are very honored to have you here in Negros Oriental Province. You are making a difference throughout our province," said Roel R. Degamo, governor of Negros Oriental Province, during a meeting with Alana.

Alana joined his AFP counterpart, Col. Francisco M. Patrimonio, on regular visits to the sites and meetings with mayors of the cities closest to the sites.

Two of the sites provided medical care and three contain civil engineering programs to improve schools  in the area. 

Operation Pacific Angel is a U.S. Pacific Command humanitarian mission that sends primary care, dental, optometry and civil engineer experts to different countries each year to partner with their militaries and other non-governmental organizations. This marks the sixth year of the operation, and Pacific Angel-Philippines is the first trip of the year. It is scheduled to last through March 9.

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