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Sentro Oftalmologico Jose Rizal

Cataracts, glaucoma, corneal diseases and other vision problems can now all be diagnosed and treated under one roof! Imagine an eye referral center where all the best ophthalmologists (doctors specializing in the care and treatment of various eye problems), the best equipment, and the best service can all be found in a modern, state-of-the-art facility.

Indeed, the Sentro Oftalmologico Jose Rizal, the country’s national eye referral center, is proving to be the best there is when it comes to providing quality, efficient and affordable service to people suffering from eye problems nationwide.

Heaven-sent gift
Named after the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who was an ophthalmologist himself, and using a combination of Filipino and Spanish words, the Sentro Oftalmologico Jose Rizal is indeed a heaven-sent gift for the Filipino people from the Spanish government.

Sentro Oftalmologico is located inside the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) compound, and is built on 4,938 square meters of land. The 5-storey building is fully air-conditioned (which is not very common in government hospitals in the country) and it houses the most modern, state-of-the-art equipments and facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases.

In 2000, a Memorandum of Agreement signed between the University of the Philippines and Spain, through the Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion International, marked the fulfillment of the dream of constructing a national eye referral center. In 2001, this dream became closer to reality as the Spanish government gave a grant amounting to seven million US dollars to construct the eye center.

“There are three components to the grant given by the Spanish government,” says Dr. Manuel B. Agulto, department chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences of the UP-PGH and the College of Medicine. The grant was given for the construction of the building, equipment of the center with modern medical instruments, and the training of doctors in ophthalmology.

Essentially functioning as the Department of Ophthalmology of both the UP-PGH and the UP College of Medicine, the Sentro is manned by consultants, fel-lows and residents from the UP College of Medicine, ensuring the best quality of treatment for its patients. There are about 40 consultants and 40 fellows and residents working at Sentro.

“We serve the patients by making the consultants responsible for the total care of our patients,” relates Dr. Agulto. Unlike in other training hospitals where the residents mostly take care of patients, in Sentro it is the consultants who are given the responsibility of care even for the charity patients, adds Dr.Agulto.”This assures our clientele the best care possible — in terms of equipment that are state-of-the-art and in terms of the expertise of doctors,” he says.

Another thing that makes the Sentro unique, says Dr. Agulto, is that aside from the modern facility and equipment, the Sentro also has all the subspecialties in ophthalmology under its roof. Meaning, all the best ophthalmologists who trained in – all kinds of subspecialty in ophthalmology can be found in Sentro.

And since the Sentro is home to the best eye care facilities in the country, it is also capable of training doctors in any of the sub-specialties in ophthalmology.”We have also the biggest training program.We train residents (who want to specialize in ophthalmology), and after three years of training they can take the specialty board exam,” says Dr.Agulto. After that, the specialist can take three more years of further training on a sub-specialty in ophthalmology, he adds.

The Sentro offers the following training programs:

  • three-year residency training in ophthalmology
  • fellowship programs in:
    • glaucoma
    • vitreoretina
    • cornea, external disease, and uveitis
    • pediatric ophthalmology
  • diploma in preventive ophthalmology

Dr. Agulto further relates that right now, the Department of Ophthalmology has been given a grant by the World Health Organization (WHO) to train doctors in the sub-specialty of pediatric ophthalmology, making Sentro a regional training center in the said sub-specialty field. With the WHO grant that made Sentro a regional training center in pediatric ophthalmology, Dr. Agulto can only hope that in the future, Sentro Oftalmologico will not only be a national eye referral center for patients, but also a national and possibly a regional training center in the other sub-specialties in ophthalmology.

Giving back the gift of service
Everyday, about 800 patients pass through the doors of Sentro to avail of the many out-patient services it offers. As part of the UP-PGH, Sentro Oftalmologico also provides charity work for the less fortunate members of the society.

“We are unique in that our mandate, based on the memorandum of agreement, is to serve the less-privileged” Dr.Agulto explains. True to his words, a long queue of charity patients can be found daily at Sentro waiting to be served, diagnosed, and treated by the best eye doctors in town.

While providing free services – free consultations and diagnosis – is a mandate given to Sentro by virtue of the memo-randum of agreement, Dr. Agulto explains that it won’t be long before they ask someone to pay even for the charity patients.This is because the facility was not given additional budget by the government, which means that the eye center will have to generate its own funds to be able to serve more people, according to Dr. Agulto.

To be able to generate funds, they charge for the use of the equipments and the operating room — a small matter given the fact that the eye center has the most modern equipment and facilities, ensuring patients that they are getting the best care possible for their eye diseases without having to leave the country and spend more than double for the their treatment and operation.

The Sentro Oftalmologico has five state-of-the-art operating suites equipped with the most advanced ophthalmologic equipment. Daily minor eye surgeries are done in the minor operating room and elective operations are done in five major operating rooms at the Sentro. Aside from the doctors, the eye center is also staffed by experienced ophthalmologic surgical nurses.

This modern building houses the most up-to-date diagnostic and laser treatment facilities that include:

  • fluorescein angiogram
  • ocular ultrasound
  • biometry
  • fundus photo
  • argon laser
  • Nd-Yag laser
  • automated visual field
  • optical coherence tomography
  • ultrasound biomicroscope
  • specular

It also features a 32-bed capacity charity ward and five private suites. For those who only require outpatient services, the Sentro has daily outpatient comprehensive ophthalmologic and subspecialty clinics.

Among other facilities, the Sentro Oftalmologico is also home to the Santa Lucia International Eye Bank, the first and only state-of-the-art eye banking facility in the country. The eye bank collects, processes, evaluates, stores and ensures the equitable distribution of quality corneal/eye tissues for transplant, research and education.The eye bank also helps charity patients who are corneally blind by giving free quality corneas to those who cannot afford the cost of securing quality eye tissues and the cost of conducting surgery.

Also located inside Sentro is the Eye Instrument Center which houses the specialized ophthalmologic diagnostic and therapeutic machines. While the ocular Microbiology Laboratory and Ocular Pathology Laboratory – specialized laboratories focusing on purely ocular disease conditions – can both be found on the second floor of Sentro.

With the Sentro having the best facilities, equipment, and doctors available, Dr. Agulto believes that the eye center fully augments the Department of Ophthalmology’s roles in providing quality and affordable eye care to the Filipinos and facilitating the training of Filipino ophthalmologists. “We envision that in the future we will not only be a national but also a regional center of excellence in ophthalmology,” says Dr. Agulto.

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