Operation Smile Philippines breaks ground for largest cleft care center in Cebu City
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Cleft patients here in Cebu and other parts of the country may soon avail of free, quality cleft care treatment and service through Operation Smile’s comprehensive cleft care center project in Cebu City.
Officials of the Operation Smile Philippines (OSP), the Cebu City government, and executives of the Mariquita Salimbangon (MSY) Foundation Inc., on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, broke ground for the first ever Cebu Comprehensive Cleft Care Center of Excellence at the new Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) building.
The ceremonial groundbreaking marked the beginning of the construction works for the facility, to be shouldered by the OSP.
The facility, subject to a memorandum of agreement entered between the international organization and the city government, is expected to cater to the first batch of cleft patients not only in Cebu but all over the country in the next six to seven months.
To occupy half of the entire sixth floor of the CCMC, or with a floor area of 1,700 square meters, the cleft care center will be the OSP’s largest to date. It is expected to cater to about 3,000 cleft patients annually, for free.
The center will include five operating tables, diagnosis, and medical evaluation across specialties, feeding and nutrition care, dental care, speech services, counseling and support, and surgical care.
Emiliano Romano, executive director of Operation Smile Philippines, said that center would also serve as an education and training center for local and international medical practitioners.
Romano said patients, who would wish to avail of OPS’ free services, could visit their website at operationsmile.org.ph or its official Facebook page at Operation Smile Philippines.
“They will find a signup form. It is actually a link where they can sign up. Our coordinator will get in touch. Sometimes, we fly patients to our centers to receive care and then fly them back home and all of these are for free,” he said.
Moreover, Romano told reporters that the project was a “dream come true”, especially 10 years after their founder initially started a conversation with the city government on the possibility of opening a cleft center here in Cebu.
“Of course, many things happened, and this hospital was hit by an earthquake. We had the pandemic. Today is a testament that if there is real passion and love in what we do every day, we can achieve something,” he said.
“And I think this is something for the Cebuanos to be proud of because this will not only cater to patients with cleft palates from Cebu but from the Visayas and the entire Philippines,” he added.
Romano said the Visayas region had an estimated backlog of 45,000 patients born with a cleft, and OSP believed that since Cebu was strategically located in between of the region, it would be a perfect hub for the cleft care center.
Over the years, Operation Smile has already transformed the lives of more then 34,000 patients.
The groundbreaking also marked two decades of partnership between the OSP and the MSY Foundation.
“This is fulfilling my childhood dream of being able to help our fellow citizens have safe and accessible surgical care,” said Dame Mariquita Salimbangon Yeung, the founder of the MSY Charitable Foundation Inc.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama also thanked the OSP and the MSY Foundation for this initiative and assured the city government’s support for the program, noting that such was inclined with his dream of providing quality care for the Cebuanos.
Moreover, Dr. Anton Reposar, hospital director of CCMC, said this would be another milestone for the hospital, where they could render additional service to their patients.
“What makes it more significant is that these patients are children who is our future, our next generation, and our next in line,” he said.
Meanwhile, the OSP will hold its 40th Anniversary Charity Gala and Auction on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. The proceeds of which will defray the costs for the outfitting, equipment, and furnishings of the center’s areas.
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