Dr. Dela Cruz to lead fifth mission to Philippines in June

Photo Provided Dr. Dela Cruz with the governor of Sarangani and medical staff in the Philippines.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — A local medical team led by Dr. Renato Dela Cruz is planning its fifth medical-surgical mission to the Philippines.

Dela Cruz is organizing and funding the mission along with Medical Mission Inc. of the University of Santo Tomas, which is where the doctor graduated from in 1976. The Medical Mission Inc. holds two major medical missions every year. The missions’ purpose is to help provide a wide range of medical care for the needy.

Dela Cruz specializes in internal medicine and has been in practice for more than 40 years. He has two practices in Belmont County, one in Martins Ferry and the other in St. Clairsville.

His first mission trip to the Philippines was in 2006. The Belmont County physician has made four mission trips to the Philippines in total thus far, in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2013. The trip in June will mark Dela Cruz’s fifth medical mission to the Philippines.

This year, 100 local medical professionals have volunteered and will join Dela Cruz in participating in the medical mission. The team will leave the United States for the Alabel Sarangani Province in the Philippines on June 9 and return June 15.

Colleges in the Philippines have been holding free screenings this past month, preparing cases for when the medical team arrives. Dela Cruz explained that they are offering medical help to the “poorest of the poor.” He said they have already found around 700-800 major and minor surgical cases to address when the team arrives in Sarangani.

Once the team arrives, the members will have a morning Mass at 7 a.m., breakfast around 8 a.m. and then work from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day. They will perform major and minor surgeries, dental procedures, cataract surgeries and, on the final day, they will perform circumcisions, Dela Cruz said.

In previous mission trips, the team took over use of a few rooms of a school to perform operations on patients. Dela Cruz said that each room would have around 10 tables lined up in rows. Each doctor would perform surgery, simultaneously, at each table.

However, this year will be slightly different. The new Sarangani Provincial Hospital in the Philippines will soon open its doors, allowing the doctor and his team to be some of the first medical professionals to use the newly built hospital.

“I flew to the Philippines last year to meet with the governor. That’s when they told us to use the brand new hospital. It wasn’t opened yet, they were finishing it up. … We are working with the Sarangani Provincial Government this year. They will be taking care of our lodging and food when we get there. We, volunteers, will also be housed in the new Sarangani Provincial hospital,” Dela Cruz explained.

Dela Cruz said the team members will be serving the entire Sarangani Province. He estimates that he and his team will serve up to 5,000 patients during their six days in the Philippines. Each surgical physician will perform around 10 surgical procedures per day, averaging almost 400 in total; 350-390 minor surgeries; 700 dental procedures; and the last day they will perform circumcisions, he said. The major surgical cases Dela Cruz intends to encounter include cases of thyroidectomies, hysterectomies, ovarian cysts, hydrocoelectomies, mastectomies, myomectomies, chlolecystectomies, herniorrhaphies, chiloplasties, cataracts and pterygium. Minor surgeries will consist of lipomas, sebaceous cysts and circumcisions, he said.

Dela Cruz is already planning his next mission trip, following this one in June. He said it will take place in two years in his hometown of Kiamba, in 2021.

The humanitarian physician plans, organizes and helps fund these medical missions as a way to give back to his hometown. He wouldn’t elaborate on the exact cost of the mission, but he did say that the plane tickets alone cost upwards of $20,000 for the 100 medical professionals to fly to the Philippines. Dela Cruz uses his own funds to assist with the costs of the missions, along with volunteering his time and resources.

This year’s mission trip is in honor of the Falgui clan, Dela Cruz’s family.

“My cousin has a medical mission. We will make this trip into a family mission. This one is in honor of the Falgui clan, our parents, our cousins, those who have passed away,” Dela Cruz said.

Anyone who would like to donate to the medical mission can contact Dela Cruz at his St. Clairsville office at 740-296-5702 or his Martins Ferry office at 740-633-6332.