MANILA, April 7, 2011â€”Affirming its advocacy to attend to the needs of the handicapped and the sick, the Episcopal Commission on Health Care (ECHC) has called on parents of children who are â€œin needâ€ to participate in the commissionâ€™s various advocacies, saying that it would benefit them and their children.
â€œIt is a great opportunity to work in the commission for the benefit of the child who is blind and other children who are disabled. Itâ€™s important to have them in the commission,â€ said former ECHC Executive Secretary Fr. Luke Moortgat, CICM.
ECHC has for long, assisted parishes and hospitals in doing their medical missions where they have given away medicines to the needy, although not in a large scale.
During their work with local parishes, Fr. Moortgat said that they have been promoting the sacrament of the anointing of the sick especially to the elderly, among others.
He also noted that it is not ECHCâ€™s â€œplan to have a big office to dominate or to tell everyone what they are doing, but to help the needy.â€
ECHC is anchored on four areas that they particularly focus on: the handicapped, the sick, the aged and the dying.
â€œWe lift them up, help them to be active. We help them to stand up from the grassroots,â€ said Fr. Moortgat, who retired as the commissionâ€™s executive secretary last April 1. He is now a program director for ECHC.
â€œWe envision the deaf helping the blind. The greater the need, the greater the care,â€ the priest added.
Beds for patient, college for deaf
Seeking to provide comfort to all patients, ECHC spearheaded the project called â€œA Patient, A Bedâ€ that aims to provide beds to all mentally-ill patients who have been sleeping on floors in government psychiatric hospitals.
â€œUnknown to most Filipinos, there are many people in our mental hospitals who sleep on [the] floor, the hard and cold cement. We know people in the street who sleep on the floor, but even in mental hospitals they sleep on the floor. We want a bed for every patient, which is elementary enough,â€ said Fr. Moortgat.
The priest said they have brought this matter to then president Gloria Macapag-Arroyo who agreed and wrote a letter to the Department of Health, tagging them in the cause.
The Arroyo administration had already sent 80 beds to a mental hospital in Mandaluyong City.
But a change in presidency has put the operation to a pause. As of now, ECHC has been writing a couple of letters to President Benigno Aquino III and has yet to meet him.
â€œWe want to pursue this. We must fight against it and we must not claim poverty for it,â€ Fr. Moortgat said.
In 1991, ECHC started a foundation called College Program for the Deaf that aimed to put to school children who are hearing-impaired.
De La Salle University-Manila and College of Saint Benilde have been tapped in the worthy cause and now have a total of 175 deaf students in the college level.
Calendar of events
Every year, the commission has a lineup of 12 activities that caters to all disabilities and illnesses that includes a day dedicated to the blind in February, a day for the elderly in March and some special education courses for mentally-challenged patients where they invite key speakers and people to reflect.
â€œWe try to attack things on many angles. We just donâ€™t focus on one aspect,â€ said Fr. Moortgat, noting that the commission wants to give equal attention to all disabilities and sickness.
This year, they celebrated the World Day of the Sick last February 11.
Revamped 12 apostles
Fr. Moortgat plans to remake the 12 apostles that will be portrayed on Holy Week by inviting disabled or ill people who could represent his or her sickness to play the part, instead of young, healthy men.
He noted that this is a good advocacy to all those who are suffering from illnesses and added that it does not cost anything, considering that they do not get any funding from the Catholic Bishopsâ€™ Conference of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the priest said their second collection for their finance has amounted to over 100,000 pesos, still a pea-size fraction compared to their million peso expenditure annually.
Fr. Moortgat admitted that he has used up all his savings, including his retirement funds, to finance the activities of the commission.
â€œI look left and right to beg for money. The companies we have asked for some donations have backed out since they are retrenching from the economyâ€™s slip,â€ he said. (Brylle B. Tabora)