Orbis Flying Eye Hospital Arrives in Davao

The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital has landed in the Philippines at Davao International Airport. On the outside, the aircraft looks like any normal plane, but on the inside, it's like no other featuring an ophthalmic hospital and teaching facility on board. The fully equipped mobile teaching hospital is in Davao to conduct their program in coordination with the Ophthalmology Department of the Southern Philippines Medical Center. 

dc-10 orbis
Coyright Photo: RJ Monterde/PPSG
The DC-10 aircraft travels the world to cure the visually impaired using a mobile surgery room that can spread knowledge to local doctors. When surgery is being performed on board, several local ophthalmologists sit in a classroom observing a screen where eye surgery is taking place in an adjoining operating theatre. 

Between explanations of the procedures by a surgeon regarding the various steps of the surgery, participating ophthalmologists are able to ask questions. Unlike a regular medical class, this course is being delivered on board a stationary aircraft that travels the world to provide intensive training and free eye treatment for the visually impaired. 

dc-10 orbis
Copyright Photo: Gabriel de Cadiz/PPSG
The program is targeted at regions in developing countries where health infrastructure and trained medics are still major issues. The flying hospital's visits are not only designed to cure patients but to expand the knowledge of local doctors in the cities where the plane lands. 

For this visit to the Philippines, Orbis has partnered with the Ophthalmology Department of the Southern Philippines Medical Center to provide training that will offer hands-on experience and skills exchange to participants in the areas of glaucoma, advanced cataract, neuro-ophthalmology, medical and surgical retina, and paediatric ophthalmology.

The two-week training course is designed not only for ophthalmologists but also for other medical professionals including nurses, biomedical engineers, and anaesthesiologists among others. Participants interact with twenty volunteer specialists from countries who are certified experts and highly trained with teaching experience in their respective fields. 

According to Amy Tan, Director of Orbis Singapore, most of the participants are residents and young ophthalmologists. "By participating in this program, we hope they can learn particular techniques or approaches from the experts that regular curriculum does not cover," said Tan. For the surgical training, Tan says that doctors screen all patients. "We're not looking for rare cases, but the ones which can be a good example on how to practice the technique and are suitable for teaching practices," Tan said. Younger patients and those without financial means are usually given priority. The surgeries are all recorded and copies are provided to the local hospital as teaching material. 

Orbis was founded by US ophthalmologist David Paton in 1973 on the basis that 80 percent of visual impairment around the world could be cured or avoided. He envisioned using aviation as a tool to deliver medical education around the world. Operations were launched in 1982 with a grant from the US Agency for International Development and a donated Douglas DC-8-21 from United Airlines. 

As replacement parts for the DC-8 became challenging and expensive to obtain, the aircraft was eventually retired and a newer, larger aircraft was obtained. In 1992, Orbis acquired a McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 aircraft at a cost of $14 million funded through private donations. The DC-10-10 aircraft was the second DC-10 aircraft ever built in 1970. It was previously used as a test aircraft by McDonnel Douglas before being used in passenger service by Laker Airways. It passed through many other carriers before ending up with Orbis in 1992. Conversion of the aircraft took 18 months at an additional cost of $15 million. 

dc-10 orbis
"Orbis DC-10 Configuration"
Image Source: Orbis International
The aircraft contained twice the interior space of the original DC-8. It was configured with an operating theatre complete with surgical instruments, a 48-seat classroom, audiovisual studio, a laser treatment room, and a recovery room. In addition to the flight deck, a communications center also exists on board the aircraft. The operating room is located in the centre of the aircraft as it is the most stable location in the event of bad weather at a location.  

orbis operating theater
Image Source: The Jakarta Post
The audio-visual room serves as the control room for 16 cameras, eight microphones, and 54 television monitors. In the lower belly of the aircraft, an equipment laboratory and technical centre hosts Orbis biomedical engineers that teach host-country technicians how to maintain and repair ophthalmologic equipment.

orbis dc10
"DC-10 Orbis Configuration"
Image Source: Global Air
The 52.12 meter long aircraft also features microscopes, intraocular lenses, and onboard water filters to ensure that the flying hospital is equipped with safe water to sterilize surgical devices at all times. The aircraft also boasts its own hospital-grade air compressor to manage the air quality especially in the operating theatre. The airflow begins in the theatre and spreads to the rest of the aircraft. 

dc10 orbis
Coyright Photo: RJ Monterde/PPSG
In April 2008, it was announced that Orbis would replace its DC-10-10 aircraft with a DC-10 Series 30 freighter donated by FedEx with engines supplied by United Airlines. In August 2011, FedEx revealed that it would donate a MD-10-30 freighter aircraft to Orbis to replace the DC-10. The MD-10 aircraft would feature a modular hospital suite, the first to ever be used on an aircraft. 

orbis md-10
"MD-10 Orbis Configuration"
Image Source: Global Air
In addition to the Flying Eye Hospital, Orbis operates country offices in cooperation with local partners in a number of countries including Vietnam, China, and the Philippines. The offices focus on multi-year projects designed to help prevent and treat some of the most prevalent eye diseases in the region. 

72 comments:

  1. how can we avail their services? until when this mission group will stay in davao city?

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  2. My brother has an eye disease and my husband likewise has an eye defect due to stroke. I wish they can avail their services. until when this medical mission stay in Davao city?

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  3. ORBIS flying Eye hospital had already left Davao City last week.

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  4. When will they visit here again? Coz my mother also has eye problem. .

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  5. When you will visit again Manila Philippines, because my daughter have eye problem.
    Thank you

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  7. When they will come again in davao??my daughter has a limbal dermoid..is it a free operation?

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  8. When they will be coming back to Davao? How to avail this service? My father has rare case of an eye problem which Doctor in Davao find it hard to operate.. Please inform me..!!

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