Almost two years after the Tzu Chi Foundation and Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital in Taiwan signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the San Mateo local government, the fight to eradicate tuberculosis (TB) and rabies continues.
Dr. Teh Soon Jian, an infectious diseases specialist from the Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, arrive in the Philippines on December 8, along with TB Control Program Manager and Nurse Cheng Hsin Yi and Project Officer Lien Yu-Mei from the said hospital’s International Health Service Center Department.
They aim to follow up on the progress of the program since it was launched in January 2016.
Under the MoA, Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital supplies 200 vials of rabies vaccine to San Mateo every quarter as well as provide medication treatment for 20 percent of TB patients in this Rizal town. The local government is responsible for coming up with a list of potential beneficiaries, while Tzu Chi Philippines mobilizes its local volunteers to undergo training and monitor TB patients’ treatment, ensuring that the patients are taking their medicines with the proper dosage and at the proper time.
The MoA is effective for three years.
Upon arrival, the delegation from Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital meet with San Mateo’s Municipal Health Officer Dr. Ma. Anna Amado Sochaco and her team of doctor and nurses at the town’s Super Health Center.
Currently, Tzu Chi’s TB program is benefitting pediatric patients from five barangays (villages) of San Mateo namely, Barangay Banaba, Barangay Ampid I and II, Barangay Silangan, and Barangay Guitnang Bayan. The patients’ ages range from six months old to 14 years old.
Due to budget constraints, the government can only sustain the medications of adult TB patients.
As of December 2017, three batches, or 151 TB patients, have already completed their medications under Tzu Chi’s program. Among the fourth batch, 20 have finished their treatment while 34 are still under medications.
“Before, these patients received interrupted supply of TB medicines but now they are assured of six-month treatment without costing them a cent. It is a lot of comfort for the families because they are now released from the burden of buying approximately PHP8,000 cost of TB treatment,” says Dr. Sochaco.
Dr. Sochaco is also proud to announce that their facility has been accredited as an Animal Bite Center for having adequate anti-rabies vaccine supplies.
“Rabies patients used to run to government hospitals or private hospitals where they pay expensive medicines. But now, they are given free vaccines, they do not spend a lot to be treated of rabies, and for the last two years, we have [recorded] no death due to human rabies,” Dr. Sochaco adds.
However, TB cases remain high in San Mateo, with as many as 61 new cases every month in 2017. Rabies cases also escalated this year, with Barangay Silangan recording the highest number of animal bite incidents at 394 patients in one month.
This worries Dr. Teh. More than combating TB, the ultimate goal of the partnership, after all, is to completely eliminate the illness. For this purpose, Dr. Teh hopes to learn and understand better the local health personnel’s procedures in carrying out the program.
From asking questions such as the process of diagnosing the patients, monitoring the treatment’s progress, and the post-treatment care, Dr. Teh is reassured to know that the health personnel are able to answer every single one, proving that they are fully knowledgeable about their work despite their limited resources.
In the end, Dr. Teh shares some advice and the process they implement in Taiwan with the health personnel so they can best serve the patients and ensure better results of the program.
“After having a detailed conversation with the personnel from the Super Health Center, we fully understand the situation and also the difficulties they are facing and to be honest, I feel that they truly care about the patients,” says Dr. Teh.
“During the conversations, we understand what they need in the future, and Tzu Chi will try our best to bring all these wishes and requests back to Taiwan. We will try our best to offer the best help to them in the future,” he adds.
Nurse supervisor Gioze Valera appreciates this. She has been handling San Mateo’s TB control program since 1995 and rabies vaccination program since 2000. She finds Tzu Chi’s approach to the campaign quite special.
“I am happy that we have this partnership with Tzu Chi Foundation because they are really showing us that they care. They care for the patients so much and we are so happy about that. We are looking forward to see TB eliminated in the Philippines, not only in San Mateo,” says Valera.
The team from Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital will continue with their follow-up on the program. On December 9, they are scheduled to meet with Tzu Chi volunteers tasked to monitor patients undergoing treatment and observe as the latter administer the medicines.
San Mateo’s health personnel present about the status of Tuberculosis and Rabies cases in their town. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
San Mateo Municipal Health Officer Ma. Anna Sochaco reports about the progress of the campaign. Although tuberculosis cases and animal bite incidents remain high in their town, much has improved in terms of the provision of treatment. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
San Mateo’s health personnel show the new set of medicines that are prescribed by the Department of Health (DOH) for pediatric tuberculosis patients.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Dr. Teh Soon Jian asks the local health personnel detailed questions from diagnosing, monitoring, and post-treatment care and is reassured to know that the latter are fully knowledgeable about their responsibilities.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Dr. Teh Soon Jian shares some advice and the process they implement in Taiwan to give the local health personnel ideas on how they can best serve their patients and ensure better results of the program.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Nurse supervisor Gioze Valera appreciates Tzu Chi’s concern to the tuberculosis patients in San Mateo, Rizal.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】