The new distribution centre of Health Partners International of Canada officially opened on Nov. 25 and a variety of donors and partners were there to walk through the facility and hear about the impact of HPIC’s mission.
Even the most basic medicine can make an enormous difference to someone in need, said Denis St-Amour, HPIC’s president, pointing to the racking and skids of medicines and medical supplies in the 11,500 square-foot warehouse. So many people do not have access to medicine, the medicine they need is not available or it is too expensive.
“There are people who are waiting, hoping and praying for this medicine to reach them,” Denis said. “It will be life-saving or allow them to treat their symptoms and resume a normal active life.”
An example of a community that benefits regularly from medical relief provided by HPIC is in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Dario Del Rizzo, a physician and partner in HPIC’s Physician Travel Pack program, spoke at the event about the work he and his church, St. Peter’s in Vaughn, have been doing over the past 9 years.
Every year Dr. Del Rizzo and his community bring enough medicines and medical supplies to provide about 18,000 treatments. “Without you, the donors of medicines, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” he said at the opening.
“If you are born into a shantytown, your life expectancy in the D.R. is 50,” the doctor said. The HIV/AIDS rate is high for young people, malnutrition is around 30 per cent for children and chronic diarrhea affects about 50 per cent of children.
The church community began helping out after a few members were in the D.R. on vacation and became aware of the extreme poverty there. “Our Franciscan priests went to see for themselves and encouraged the parish to help. Without any government funding, with donations of $5 and $10 at a time, we developed programs in nutrition, immunization, education and health,” he said.
When Dr. Del Rizzo travels with the medicines each summer, he leaves enough to supply the pharmacy clinics for a year. “Even if you are working and can see a doctor for free, the doctor gives you a prescription and you cannot fill it,” he said after explaining that a young strong man can earn $2 for two days of work on the sugar cane plantation and that a hotel worker earns about $120 a month. “Gas is 10 cents more than here and everything, things like pasta, are more expensive than in Canada. A month of powdered milk for babies costs about 6 months’ salary.”
“Gradually, we see more progress all the time,” he said. The community now runs programs in 24 bateys or very impoverished communities. Two dozen young people have graduated from university and three doctors have graduated. “In one little clinic, there is a young doctor who we put through medical school and she is there all year along with two nurses,” he said.
“One of the nurses is named Esperanza, hope in English. She has a fitting name. When I asked her if we are making a difference, she said ‘yes’. I said ‘how’. And she replied: ‘Our kids don’t die anymore’. There is nothing more impressive and hopeful than her statement.”
The Mayor of Oakville offered a warm welcome to his town and introduced the local councillor Tom Adams. “I am very proud you chose to come to Oakville. …Congratulations on your 25th anniversary and on delivering 25 million treatments. There are 25 million really good reasons we’re glad you’re here and that’s the work you have done for the world.”
Denis St-Amour, HPIC’s president, mentioned that HPIC is close to having delivered half a billion dollars of medical relief. He thanked the Canadian healthcare industry and referred to the support of Canada’s Research-based Pharmaceutical Companies, the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association and Consumer Health Products Canada.
“We will work so hard to keep the trust of our donors and to act with integrity. …You have saved more lives than you will ever know. Let’s continue on this journey together.”
Denis said that HPIC would like to ramp up the medical relief to provide the next 25 million treatments in half the time it took to deliver the first.