A STATE-OF-THE-ART cleft care center is expected to open at the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) in the first half of 2023.

The Cebu Comprehensive Cleft Care Center of Excellence will be occupying the sixth floor of the hospital and will have a floor area of 1,700 square meters.

Mayor Michael Rama said the center will complement his vision for CCMC to become a “hospital for the poor, but the services are like that of the rich.”

The Cebu City Government has partnered with Operation Smile Philippines (OSP), which will run the center. Both parties broke ground on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022.

Once completed, the OSP said the center will be Operation Smile’s largest cleft care center globally to date. The international organization is one of the world’s largest volunteer-based nonprofit organizations, and it has been providing safe surgeries for those born with cleft lip and cleft palate.

OSP executive director Emiliano Romano said that they are aiming for the center to be operational in six to seven months or in the first half of 2023.

Services

The center will include five operating tables, diagnosis, and medical evaluation facilities, feeding and nutrition care, dental care, speech services, counseling and support, and surgical care.

“This is something for the Cebuano to be proud of because this will not only cater to patients from Cebu but [also] from [other places in] the Visayas and the entire Philippines,” said Romano.

The OSP has partnered with the Mariquita Salimbangon Yeung (MSY) Foundation Inc. The two non-profit organizations have been partners for more than two decades in providing cleft care to children.

According to Romano, the talks of putting up a cleft care center in CCMC started 10 years ago, but the plan was halted because of the damage brought about by the 2013 earthquake and the Covid pandemic.

Happy mayor

In his speech, Mayor Michael Rama assured OSP that aside from providing them with the area at CCMC, the City Government will assist the organization.

“I am here because I am very happy. [This was] once a dream... then, now [is the] actualization. It is not a myth, not a picture. It is a reality,” said Rama.

The cleft center will be operated by the OSP and the City Government will not ask for a space rental, but the complete details between the two are yet to be revealed in their memorandum of agreement (MOA).

Rama said the MOA is ready but he will not sign it without the presence of the City Council members as this is a milestone for the entire Cebu City.

Free surgeries

MSY Corporate Holdings president and chief executive officer Martin Yeung said that all surgeries and other medical services that will be offered at the center will be free of charge.

In the Philippines, there are already three cleft centers—one in Manila, while the two others are in Pampanga and Davao City.

Romano said OSP has already transformed the lives of over 34,000 cleft patients.

Romano further said that in the Visayas, there is an estimated backlog of 45,000 patients born with either a cleft lip or cleft palate, and since Cebu is located at the center of the region, the upcoming center will be a perfect hub.

Aside from helping children with cleft lip or cleft palate, the center will also serve as a training ground for local and international medical practitioners, Romano added.

Since there are cleft care centers already established in other areas in the country, people who want to avail of the services of OSP may visit their website and register.

On Saturday, Dec. 3, the organization will hold its 40th anniversary charity gala and auction wherein the proceeds will defray the costs for the outfitting, equipment and furnishing of the center.