US troops in Mindanao medical missions: Rx, see your doctor

That is precisely what Major Talib Ali of Chicago, a medical doctor from the United States Air Force, told patients in this hinterland village Friday noon. Ali is a member of Team 3 of the medcap organized by the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division, the US Special Operations Task Force and the Municipal Health Office.

At the roofed stage where Dr. Ali tends to patients, the soft-spoken doctor, the lone Muslim among the three American doctors (one each per team), stands, his stethoscope around his neck, as he waits for rural health nurse Falconeri Avelino to tell him the patients’ complaints. She translates the complaints in English.

The complaints range from high blood pressure to “on-and-off” headaches, dizziness,  cough, arthritis.

But Dr. Ali has no diagnostic facilities to determine exactly what the patient’s disease is and there simply is no time to probe further as his colleagues from the US military and  the Municipal Health Office are busy reminding everyone they’ve gone beyond two hours.

So Dr. Ali recites what Avelino then translates to the patient  in the local language: “Unfortunately, we’ve run out of a lot of medicines (or we don’t have those medicines) ….  but we can give you some multivitamins…” 

Nearing the end of the second hour, they gave away only 20 multivitamin tablets per patient. Much later, only 10. (Even the goodies the team distributes, such as tee-shirts, bullcaps, umbrellas were just a handful).

Dr. Ali always reminds the patients that if symptoms persist, ” please go see your doctor.”

The nearest doctor or laboratory facility is in the downtown area, some 7.1 kilometers downhill.

Avelino says the three representatives per barangay who attended the October 15 to 17 medical seminar (medsem) prior to the medcap in the 15 villages in Midsayap, including this village, gained additional knowledge about health matters but for this community of 3,000 population (according to barangay captain Narciso Carino), it will be back to the usual: get medicines from the barangay health center if there are any.

“Kung walang gamot, wala ring mangyari,” (without medicines, nothing will happen), she said.

The center, however, is open only once a week, on Wednesdays, because the person in charge, barangay midwife Evelyn Dojinog Homena, also takes care of the next barangay, Arizona. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)