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Robotic Surgery is Available at St. Luke's and It's More Affordable in the Philippines Than In Other Countries

Last February 15, 2015, at the UP Bahay ng Alumni, I got a chance to join a round-table discussion on the status and availability of Robotic Surgery technology here in the Philippines.

Dr. Rebecca Singson, Chairperson of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Head of the Gyne-Robotic Surgery Section of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City, gave a very eye-opening and interesting presentation on the history of this procedure as well as how it's done exactly, how it can applied to various medical cases, and where the technology is headed in the future.

Robotic Surgery, St Lukes Medical Center, Rebecca Singson

To be honest, on my way to the meeting, I wasn't sure about what I'll see or what information will be presented to us as I didn't even know that such high-level procedure is already available in the country. You see, I have a few loved ones who have gone under the knife not for aesthetic purposes but for organ or lump extractions -- and all of those were done using Laparoscopic or open surgery. My mom herself has a long scar on her tummy, which she got when her gallbladder was removed in the mid-90's due to stones that formed inside it.

Robotic Surgery, St Lukes Medical Center, Rebecca Singson

During Dr. Becky's presentation, I learned that - just like me - many, many (if not almost all) Filipinos are still clueless about the availability of Robotic Surgery in the Philippines -- and it's a real pity because the benefits of this procedure are immense especially for patients who want to avoid getting big scars or those who don't want to spend too much time on their hospital beds.

Unlike Laparoscopic surgery that's usually associated with big cuts, Robotic Surgery only requires incisions that are practically as small as keyholes - regardless of how big the tumors or lumps are - and as such, it's significantly less painful for patients. There's also less blood-loss and because the cuts are small, recovery time can be more than twice as fast.

The 'robot' behind this technology is the 3rd Generation da Vinci Si Surgical System, that's currently only available in the Philippines at St. Luke's Medical Center at the Fort in Taguig City. The hospital acquired this very expensive equipment as it is in line with the institution's vision of delivering state-of-the-art healthcare that fuses the expertise of locally and internationally-trained doctors and medical professionals with industry-leading technology to deliver excellent medical care.

So how much would it cost you should you choose this surgical option? Well, according to Dr. Becky, it should be in the area of Php 500,000 (everything factored in, as of February 2015) but St. Luke's is offering a 'major discount promo' just to get more people interested in the procedure. It's basically twice the price of Laparoscopic surgery but you can look at the difference as the opportunity cost of staying in the hospital longer or living with a big scar. That said, I would imagine that people who are in the entertainment industry or those who have very tight work schedules would find more practical reasons to choose Robotic Surgery over going under the knife.

Also, here's an interesting tidbit: Php 500,000 (estimate) for undergoing Robotic Surgery in the Philippines would sound like a lot but it's actually a lot cheaper - more or less just a third - compared to the price of the procedure in other countries, even in Singapore. In fact, there are now patients from outside the country (both Filipinos and foreigners) who fly to the Philippines to get this medical service at St. Luke's. Considering that, I hope that the government could study this procedure in partnership with St. Luke's and other hospitals that intend to offer it as Robotic Surgery can definitely be included in our country's medical tourism program.

For more information about Robotic Surgery for Gynecologic purposes, feel free to give Dr. Rebecca Singson's Clinic at St. Luke's Medical Center a ring at (632) 789-7700 local 7305 (Clinic Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 2PM to 4PM) or you may also email her at rebeccasingsonclinic@gmail.com. Apart from her designations at St. Luke's, Dr. Singson is also an Internationally Certified Da Vinci Console Surgeon and is a fellow at the American College of Surgeons.

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