HealthTrust Members Offer Aid & Education to Places Near & Far
At least half of the world’s population lacks access to essential health services, according to a 2017 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank. In addition, many families are pushed into extreme poverty because of tremendous health expenses, the report suggests. For healthcare providers who have dedicated their lives to caring for and improving the health and well-being of others, these realities spark a desire to deliver basic healthcare and humanitarian aid to developing countries. The following stories offer just a few examples of HealthTrust members who are devoted to the mission of helping people in underserved areas of the world.
Health Starts With Education
In Nepal, a South Asian country with a population of nearly 29 million, infant mortality continues to be a significant health challenge. Compared to neighboring countries such as India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the infant mortality rate is high—46 deaths for every 1,000 live births. In the mountainous Himalayas, the number is even higher—73 deaths for every 1,000 live births, according to a 2017 study published in the journal BMC Public Health.
Memorial Health of Savannah Embraces Hill-Rom Bed Donation Program
Much of the developing world lacks essential medical supplies—even something as seemingly simple as hospital beds. Patients often have to resort to lying on dirty floors or old ragged cots, explains Lorie Way, national accounts executive at Hill-Rom. In many cases, more than one patient has to fit on each cot, she says.
That’s why Hill-Rom is working with HealthTrust members like Memorial Health of Savannah to donate their used hospital beds to medical facilities in third-world countries. Hill-Rom is partnering with MedShare, a nonprofit organization that takes surplus medical supplies and equipment from U.S. hospitals and redistributes them to hospitals in need in developing countries. MedShare determines where the needs are the greatest and helps to coordinate the donation process.
In February 2018, Nashville, Tennessee-based HCA Healthcare acquired Memorial Health, a 612-bed hospital in Savannah, Georgia. With this acquisition, HCA leadership identified capital investments that needed to be made throughout the facility—including the purchase of new beds. “In the past seven months, we’ve identified 250 beds that need to be replaced in both the critical care and med/surg units,” says Matthew Hasbrouck, COO of Memorial Health.
Not all 250 beds will be sent to the program—they must first go through a standard examination procedure with Hill-Rom to make sure they’re of acceptable quality. So far, more than 90 beds have been donated by Memorial Health and sent via MedShare to developing countries in Africa. Overall, HealthTrust members have donated more than 500 beds as part of the recent Hill-Rom/Medshare donation drive.
“At HCA Healthcare, our mission statement is ‘above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life,’ ” says Shayne George, CEO of Memorial Health. “That doesn’t just mean here in Savannah. With this project, we’re able to help improve the quality of life for those in Africa. We’re excited to do this. It makes us feel good to know these beds are going to find a home at facilities in need.”
It’s statistics like these that drive Billy McRae, director of CHRISTUS Health’s community clinics in Central Louisiana, to use his vacation time and serve on a medical missions team in the Himalayas. McRae first traveled to Nepal in 2015 after an earthquake ravaged the capital city of Kathmandu, killing nearly 9,000 people and injuring almost 22,000. On that trip, his team directed their efforts toward disaster relief, helping to clean up wreckage and rebuild city structures. The following year, he returned to work with a medical team in a Himalayan mountain village.
“In the small village where we served in Nepal, they have a couple of midwives and women who are trained in the very basics of medicine,” McRae says. “While we did see some patients and provide treatment, our goal was to offer training and medical education to help the midwives.”
McRae and other medical professionals, including physicians from CHRISTUS Health, primarily helped educate midwives on postnatal care. “There are many cultural differences,” he notes. “If a newborn or infant is sick and throwing up, they believe you should withhold fluids to prevent more sickness. So, babies would get a gastrointestinal virus or something similar, then get dehydrated from lack of fluids and die. We offered training on the importance of hydration and keeping newborns and infants warm and protected.”
To reach the village, McRae and his team members flew into Kathmandu, then took two more flights to the city of Jumla. From there, they hiked eight hours up in the mountains before reaching their final destination, amounting to nearly three days of traveling. Necessary supplies—gauze, IV fluids, laceration trays, etc.—were carried in on their backs. For the residents of this tiny village perched in the clouds, the expertise brought in by McRae’s team is sorely needed, as are the supplies, which are donated by CHRISTUS Health. “Every year, we come up with a list of supplies,” McRae says. “Every time I have gone to our CEO, he has said, ‘Yes, we’ll get you everything you need.’ ”
Mobilizing to Bring Care
For Shelly Meyers, RN, BSN, quality facilitator at HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, it was her daughter who got her involved with Haitian Christian Outreach, which has an office in Kokomo, Indiana, and does fieldwork and operates a clinic, hospital, schools and churches in cities and towns in southeast Haiti.
“In 2011, my then-teenage daughter went on a one-week mission trip to Peredo, Haiti,” Meyers says. “The following year, she was asked to return and work as a summer intern. I first became involved by supporting her.”
In 2014, Meyers traveled to Peredo for the first time with a church group from Virginia. For a week, she helped the on-site clinic workers sort through donated medical supplies and expired medications. Subsequently, she was asked to serve on a healthcare board for Haitian Christian Outreach, providing feedback and ideas on the construction, staffing and provision of care for Peredo Community Hospital. Those experiences eventually led to Meyers being asked to lead healthcare teams in Haiti.
In July 2018, Meyers led her first medical group to serve with Haitian Christian Outreach. “At first, I was skeptical about putting together a team and whether I was qualified to lead it,” she explains. The organization helped by offering feedback on what direction they wanted to go with medical care, asking for emergency-trained physicians and obstetricians.
“In fall 2017, I started sending emails to fellow HSHS employees who fit those service areas, seeking participants,” Meyers says. “The team really built itself from that point.”
The team—made up of two physicians, several nurses, pre-med students, a couple of high school students and a prison security officer with no medical training—met monthly, before shifting to weekly meetings.
“Not only did we take care of logistical things like organizing passports, raising funds and making sure immunizations were completed, but we also did cultural training,” Meyers shares. “We used learning programs and videos based on the book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself. For those who had never been out of the country, we discussed what they were going to see, the conditions people lived in and what poverty actually means.”
Once in Haiti, Meyers’ team conducted mobile clinics, traveling to remote areas of Haiti by bus and boat. Their first stop was in Jacmel, where they treated more than 185 people over the course of six hours. The next day, they traveled four hours by boat to Belle Anse, treating another 175 patients. Their last destination was Anse à Boeuf, a remote community accessible only by boat, where people live in huts made of sticks, palm fronds and tarps. There, they treated around 55 people.
According to UNICEF, there are only two doctors for every 10,000 Haitian patients, and 60 percent of Haitians lack access to basic healthcare. At Peredo Community Hospital, 17 medical professionals are working to overturn these statistics, and physicians saw almost 5,000 patients in 2017, Meyers says.
HSHS St. John’s Hospital is doing its part to help, too. Though the trip isn’t sanctioned by HSHS, volunteers carried medical supplies and equipment donated by Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach and medications donated by HSHS St. John’s Hospital.
Participating in medical missions doesn’t always mean traveling overseas. Sometimes, it means stepping into your own backyard. Earlier this year, volunteers from Surgery Partners’ Specialty Surgical Center in Beverly Hills, California, partnered with Mending Kids International to spend a Saturday performing life-changing surgeries for children in the Greater Los Angeles area.
Mending Kids, a global leader in pediatric surgical care, works to attend to the healthcare needs, specifically surgical care, of children around the world—including in the United States. Mending Kids’ U.S. Hometown Missions provide free surgeries to children from underserved communities, or those who have been denied coverage from the government and/or private insurance.
In July, 25 Surgery Partners employees, including five physicians, four anesthesiologists and four physician assistants, spent a day performing life-changing surgeries for 16 children. In addition to providing free surgical care, the volunteers performed pre- and postop diagnostic exams and helped Mending Kids recruit and screen patients.
“Our surgery center and our company embraced the idea that for one day we can be the safety net for children who need medical services,” says Danny Bundren, vice president of Surgery Partners. “To see the faces of the children and the gratitude of their parents certainly made all of the planning, preparation and execution worthwhile.”
“Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach cares for people in need through recovery and worldwide distribution of life-saving medical supplies and equipment,” says Catie Sheehan, advocacy and communications vice president for Hospital Sisters Health System. “Donations from 73 hospital partners and select corporate partners are sorted and packaged for distribution around the globe. Founded by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in 2002, Mission Outreach has saved and redistributed 11 million pounds of surplus medical equipment and supplies valued at over $75 million that would have otherwise ended up in landfills.”
“We took 550 pounds of medications and supplies to Haiti with us,” Meyers adds, explaining that to save money on baggage fees, “every person on the trip packed lightly for themselves, then packed supplies and medications in their bags.”
Collaborating With Local Providers
Physicians and nurses from Centennial, Colorado-based Centura Health have been doing medical mission work as an organization since 2006. Today, Centura Health defines their global ministry as Global Health Initiatives, or GHI, says Morre Dean, FACHE, senior vice president and chief integration officer.
Centura Health collaborates with hospitals and local medical providers in Rwanda, Nepal, Peru and Tanzania to provide care. “We tailor our global trips around the needs of the local community,” Dean says. “For example, in Rwanda, more than 400 children are born every year with club foot. We sent an orthopedic-focused surgical team to work with surgeons and doctors there.”
The goal, Dean explains, is to help local providers sustain the work they’re doing and improve the region’s healthcare. “We want to collaborate with doctors and healthcare providers to make a long-term impact on the community’s health,” he says.
For instance, in Peru, Centura Health partners with the Clinica Adventista Ana Stahl hospital and the regional Ministry of Health to bring the evidence-based Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) training to the isolated Loreto region in the Amazon. The HBB training was developed by the WHO, American Academy of Pediatrics and other global health leaders to reduce deaths among babies in the first 28 days of life. Since Centura Health began the project in July 2015, the lives of 650 babies have been saved.
“With medical missions, we’re not always taking care of a patient every day; we’re building an infrastructure to support the community’s health,” Dean adds.