ABU DHABI: A Filipino doctor has embarked on a plan to operate a “floating hospital” that would respond to the needs of people in Southeast Asian countries including those affected by natural calamities.
Dr. Manuel Sta. Romana, president of the Universal Touch of Life (UTOL) medical foundation, said phase one of the hospital ship project is now half done, with a pool of ship captains, safety engineers and technical crew at hand.
He however added that they are still in need of some 3,000 people. Sta. Romana said he is not worried, explaining, “We are not counting the number of people but the organizations which have thousands of members worldwide.”
Most of UTOL’s staff is from a wide network of international Christian mission-oriented NGOs and medical professionals from 40 other countries.
While UTOL may have somewhat found ways to address the need for additional manpower, funding for the project is another story. The hospital ship is a rehabilitated US naval carrier and would cost millions of dollars to operate. To raise the needed funds, UTOL has initially partnered with churches.
Sta. Romana told The Filipino Times he is thankful for the support UTOL has been receiving from different organizations and individuals as well as with their recent tie-up with CBN Asia.
“We truly found a brother in Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) Asia,” he said. CBN Asia is the network behind the popular Christian program The 700 Club.
“For now we are limited to face-to-face interaction with people” Sta. Romana said. “But television and the mass media is a much powerful tool,” he added.
CBN Asia President, Peter Kairuz was in Abu Dhabi last month to support UTOL’s hospital ship project.
Aside from being “men of faith,” Kairuz said they have a lot in common especially when it comes to helping people in need. CBN Asia and UTOL conduct regular medical missions and food programs.
Kairuz said the TV program 700 Club has supported this project in most of their charity endeavors. “We provide them with media mileage for their projects and activities” he said.
Aside from providing medical help and carrying disaster relief operations, Sta. Romana said UTOL will also have schools, hotels and possibly convention and seminar halls inside the ship to generate extra funds to sustain their operation.
Sta. Romana explained similar operations with other charitable organizations had been carried and were found to be effective in the US and some parts of the world.
He said UTOL also plans to have its maiden voyage in the Philippines and explore a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) with local government offices in the country. “This will be very effective especially in carrying relief operations during disasters” he said.
Sta. Ana said UTOL also intends to form strategic global partnerships with medical and health professionals from key regions and cities.
UTOL is a faith-based, non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization with EIN no. 45-3766288, registered in California, USA and the Philippines. The UTOL medical association, for its part, is a member of the Bayanihan Council in Abu Dhabi.
The hospital ship mission is targeted to launch this year. But, the lack of funds has compelled the organization to move its maiden voyage in 2017.
After the Philippines, Sta. Romana said there are plans to send the hospital ship to other parts of Asia and the Middle East. “Where the Lord leads us, we will follow” he said.