‘Docs on Boats’ join wave of aid

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MEDICAL HELP ON BOARD The doctors are out—and on their way to see patients who could not leave their homes due to floods in Quezon City’s Roxas District. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“In these sad times, if our patients cannot go to their doctors then their doctors will go to them onboard boats.”

The president of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) may be setting the tone for those now being called to help the thousands of Metro Manila residents who were either isolated or forced out of their homes by flash floods unleashed by habagat (southwest monsoon) earlier this week.

The PMA on Wednesday said it had deployed at least 200 boat-riding doctors and social counselors to help flood victims in the capital and surrounding provinces.

Dr. Leo Olarte, PMA president, said the “Doctors on Boats” project would provide medical assistance and prevent the spread of diseases in evacuation centers.

“The effects of the monsoon rains, aggravated by Tropical Storm “Maring,” have brought enormous sufferings to our countrymen who fell victim to the massive floods,” Olarte said in a statement.

Olarte noted that regular health services were greatly affected in most of the calamity-stricken areas due to the monsoon rains that were aggravated by Maring. “Mobility is also restricted in these places because of the floods.”

He said the PMA Doctors on Boats program was first implemented after the onslaught of “Ondoy” in 2009, when medical doctors with psychosocial counselors braved the floods and boarded boats to do house-to-house calls in inaccessible areas.

“We have identified various areas which are currently underwater and decided to launch Doctors on Boats initially at Barangay Roxas, Quezon City. Today, we have served more than 1,000 victims both on land and via our water-based operations,” he said.

“Our land-based outreach was conducted at the Holy Family Parish Church in the Roxas district, which acted as a temporary evacuation center,” he added.

He said each team deployed was composed of various medical specialists, including psychiatrists and religious volunteers who had been trained in conducting psychosocial counseling.

Olarte said the PMA teams would also be deployed in flooded communities in the cities of Parañaque and Marikina and in Cavite and Laguna provinces.

“We are appealing for volunteers to help us repack relief goods at the PMA auditorium on North Avenue, Quezon City. We are equally appealing to private citizens or groups who can provide us additional boats that we can use to expand our operations,” Olarte said.

Meanwhile, in Manila, Mayor Joseph Estrada led officials and volunteers in giving relief goods to flood evacuees in Baseco, Tondo.

Assisting in the distribution was businessman Manny Pangilinan.

Estrada said a medical mission would also be conducted by the local government, to be led by his wife, former senator Dr. Loi Ejercito.

St. Scholastica’s College, led by its president Sister Mary Thomas Prado, also handed out bread and hot meals to flood victims, starting with those who took refuge in the school. With a report from Nancy C. Carvajal

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