Remote areas in the Philippines serviced by PNAAust nurses on eighth medical mission

Remote areas in the Philippines serviced by PNAAust nurses on eighth medical mission

Over the last 16 years, the Philippines Nurses Association of Australia (PNAAust) has completed eight medical missions in the rural regions of the Philippines, providing service to people who have little to no access to the nation’s medical system.

This year, with the support of digital money transfer service WorldRemit, 26 nurses from the Australian association visited two regional areas in the Philippines over a period of two weeks.

The volunteers assisted the local doctors from the Philippines Medical Association with treatment and health education in two areas, Caluya Island of the Antique Province and a region just north of Manila.

Executive director of PNAAust Ella Martirez said although the mission is only two weeks long, it is one of the most fulfilling experiences for the nurses and doctors who volunteer their time.

“It’s so rewarding after you see how the people, who are really very poor and do not have access to check-ups or treatments, getting the help they need,” Mrs Martirez said.

“For example, asthma, which is so easily treatable, people can just die without any medication, so it’s really heartwarming to see our nurses going to help these people.”

As part of their last mission, the PNAAust volunteers and the doctors targeted diabetes in regional areas, by not only supplying free medication for the short term, but also providing life changing education to give them the best chance of treating the disease in the long term.

“We try to teach them they cannot just depend on medication but it’s also about their lifestyles, like not having cigarettes or alcohol, and having a healthy diet,” Mrs Martirez said.

“Giving the people treatment for just two weeks or a month, it’s shows the local and national governments that if we do initial treatment and then follow it up and continue giving our service, it will help people for a longer time.

“It’s better than doing nothing because it gives an example to the children that if we do it this way, then it will reduce the times the people get sick, and when people do get sick, it won’t be as bad.”

This year, Mrs Martirez said the nurses and doctors will be targeting malnutrition, as well as aiding with minor surgeries, dental health, respiratory problems and eczema.

“We like to service the people back home because over here in Australia, we are very fortunate to enjoy free medication and services, when not even one percent of the poor people in the Philippines would be able to access that,” she said.

Not only do the people in regional areas of the Philippines have limited access to medication and health services, they are also unable to acquire the internet or digital services on a regular basis.

Fast growing digital money transfer service WorldRemit has created a solution to this problem by partnering with local businesses, such as the Palawan Pawnshops or Cebuana Lhuillier, where people in these remote areas can access cash pick-ups.

These pawn shops and businesses like it have become a hub of activity for Filipinos living in rural areas, by not only providing a place they can instantly pick up money remittances in cash, but also acquire insurance, complete their banking needs and pawn items for on-the-spot loans.

By tapping into these businesses, WorldRemit is now able to reach many people in remote areas around the world, benefiting Filipinos such as Mrs Martirez, who is originally from Aklan in the Western Visayas region, and regularly sends money back to the Philippines.

“My husband owns a business in the Philippines, so I send money regularly, either once or twice a week, and we also help some of our nieces and nephews there,” she said.

Mrs Martirez also said the Filipinos living in these areas are grateful they can gain access to the funds without having to travel so far, with WorldRemit’s services to the Philippines also including bank deposit, mobile money or airtime top-up.

“For the Filipinos living in these remote areas, even a t-shirt or a hat is very important to them because these simple items of clothing can be very expensive,” she said.

“Even if their clothes are torn or faded, they will still wear them for as long as they can.” 

Mrs Martirez explained she is always happy to share her 30 years of experience of nursing in Australia with the people living in the Philippines, and is proud of her identity as a Filipino-Australian.

“I think Australia has to be proud of us because we have rendered our services well here and I am proud to say that I think Filipinos are always showing their caring attitude and our commitment to our careers,” she said.

The Philippines is currently the largest exporter of nurses, with around 25 percent of 2.2 million Filipino migrants having been employed as nurses around the world.

In 2017, an estimated AUD$1.8 billion of remittances went to the Philippines from Australia, making it the one of the largest markets to receive money transfers from overseas.