Australian medical mission operates on 40 kids with cleft lip, palate

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — Some 40 indigent children with cleft lip and palate can now smile with confidence after getting free operation from a team of expert plastic surgeons, anaesthesiologists and nurses from an Australia-based voluntary organization, Helping Children Smile (HCS) Inc.

In partnership with the Pangasinan provincial government, 13-man HSCI team is at the Urdaneta District Hospital until Feb. 15 to operate on children patients.

The team is composed of Dr. Nitin Sharma, Dr. Shiby Ninan, (plastic surgeons) ; Dr. Damian Castrnelli , Dr. Kushlani Stevenson, (anaesthesiologists); and registered nurses Tracey Madden, Ashleigh McIntosh, Frank Miki, Malika Burke, Erin McIntosh, Ruth Goodchild, Nicole Johnson, Elizabeth Ingham and David Lovett.

Dubbed ‘Operation Balik Ngiti,’ the surgical mission is inclusive of pre-operative assessment, preparation and intra-operative care as well as post-operative care to include wound management and suture removal.

Erin McIntosh, the team leader, said the organization has conducted a total of 20 missions in the Philippines so far, to include four in Pangasinan.

McIntosh said the high incidence of cleft lip and palate in the country forced them to decide to conduct free operations in the country on a yearly basis.

In their medical mission, the team brought with them electronic equipment, suction units, monitors, defibrillator and HB machine.

As a program partner, the province of Pangasinan provided the operation and recovery rooms and ward for pre and post operation patients and other support facilities.

The HCSI has benefited about 1,100 indigent patients since its first medical mission in the country in 1996.

Duration of the operation is about an hour for cleft lip and two hours for the palate. Patients have either been given one operation or two.

The team held courtesy call with Governor Amado I. Espino III on Monday before ending their mission on Wednesday, February 15. Leonardo Micua/

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