Taking the pain away

On May 14 2011, Dr. Hank Scholtens left for his second medical mission to Peru.

For two weeks, the family physician from Ontario helped to treat almost 600 men, women and children in Puerto Maldonado and the city’s surrounding areas, nestled in the Amazon forest.

Dr. Scholtens, along with the medical team he travelled with, visited remote villages of 300-500 people, sometimes having to hike for 3-6 hours through steep, rough terrain and altitudes as high as 3,600 metres. Donkey trains carrying medical supplies followed the teams to their destinations.

“The population we serve is generally poor,” said the doctor. “Health care is available in Peru, but only if you can pay for it, so the poor have to do without.”

The doctor brought medicines with him provided by Health Partners International of Canada. The team was thankful to have the right medicines to treat the most common ailments in the communities where they set up clinics.

Gratitude for the right medicine

A generous donation of medicines by sanofi aventis helped to treat the many complaints of abdominal pain and vaginal symptoms associated with infection.

Flagyl, an antibiotic, was used to treat cases of suspected amebic dysentery, an inflammatory disorder of the intestine transmitted through contaminated food and water. The condition is commonly associated with tropical climates such as the Amazon, and symptoms can include severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the feces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.

Women in the communities received relief with a specific medication for another common condition. “Having Flagystatin with us was a real boon,” he claimed, and explained that compared to an alternative treatment for vaginitis requiring the use of two products instead of one, this treatment was easier for the patients.

Dr. Scholtens expressed gratitude for the medicines that were provided and said he looked forward to using similar products on future projects, as well as in his practice in Canada.

GSK president joins employees for volunteer day at HPIC

To mark National Volunteer Week, Health Partners International of Canada held an event April 16 to recognize the contribution of GSK to their volunteer program. A team of 12 employees from GSK, including President Paul Lucas, were at HPIC’s medical aid distribution centre in Mississauga packing medicines into Physician Travel Packs (PTPs).

“Volunteers reduce our operating costs and increase our effectiveness, ” said Glen Shepherd, President of HPIC. “We are so grateful to the companies who lend us their employees and to our regular crew of volunteers. GSK is one of our top partners, in providing volunteers, donated medicines and financial support. ”

After a day of work and camaraderie, the GSK team had packed 30 PTPs, enough primary care medicine to treat up to 18,000 children and adults in the developing world. Last year GSK contributed 365 volunteer hours to HPIC.

Lucas said that HPIC has been a valued partner of GSK since 1994. “GSK encourages employees to become involved with deserving causes in their local communities, and we are proud to be a leading contributor to HPIC through product and financial contributions, as well as our employee volunteer efforts.”

HPIC can always use more volunteers, especially individuals who are available to come in on short notice. To inquire about volunteering : email Andrea Hillman at ahillman@hpicanada.ca or call her at 905-670-1990.

Oil executives and 30 Members of Parliament meet in Fort McMurray to raise funds for HPIC

Improving the health of mothers and children in the developing world was what motivated a unique gathering in Fort McMurray July 10.

At the invitation of Brian Jean, Member of Parliament for Fort McMurray-Athabaska who is also on the Board of Directors of Health Partners International of Canada, 30 MPs from across Canada, oil industry executives and local business people attended a fundraiser for HPIC in the northern Alberta town. The event was a tremendous success and raised close to $70,000.

“Thanks to Brian’s initiative, awareness was raised about our work in Alberta and with politicians from across the country,” said Glen Shepherd, President of HPIC. “We are so grateful for this significant injection of support for our initiatives to improve the health of mothers and children in Africa.”

HPIC’s Focus on the Health of Mothers and Children is a set of initiatives that includes training healthcare workers, publishing a Paediatric Handbook, creating and distributing a Mother-Child Health Kit, and knowledge exchange projects to share best practices in Pharmaceutical Management. In September Zimbabwean healthcare workers will be trained in emergency obstetrical care through the ALARM (Advanced Labour and Risk Management) course developed by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, a partner of HPIC.

“My association with HPIC is one of the things I’m most proud of in my professional career,” said Jean in a press release issued to local media prior to the event.

Major sponsors of this event are:

Diamond sponsor: the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers,
Ruby sponsor Syncrude Canada Ltd.,
Sapphire sponsors Suncor Energy and Fort McMurray Regional Airport,
Emerald sponsors Caldwell Banker, Golosky Services Ltd, Kirschner Family Corporation, MXC Racing & Off Road, Quality Group of Companies, H Wilson Industries, Walsh RE/MAX, Lance Bussieres RE/MAX, City Centre Group Inc
Pearl sponsors: AECON, Enbridge, Northland Forest Products, Safway Scaffolding
Coverage in Fort McMurray Today newspaper: http://www.fortmcmurraytoday.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3593452

Emergency obstetrical care training course in Zimbabwe this September

More mothers die in Zimbabwe than almost anywhere else in the world and the situation has been getting worse in recent years. This fall HPIC is launching a project with the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) in the hope that more Zimbabwean mothers and babies will survive pregnancy and childbirth.

Forty Zimbabwean health professionals will receive emergency obstetrical care training Sept. 17-22. HPIC has signed an agreement with the SOGC and the Zimbabwe Association of Church-Related Hospitals to offer the SOGC’s ALARM (Advances in Labour and Risk Management) International Program.

“This partnership with the SOGC and ZACH is going to upgrade the skills of Zimbabwean midwives, nurses and doctors and save mothers and children,” said Kendall Nicholson, HPIC’s Executive Director of International Programs. “Our focus on the health issues of women and children is the way to make lasting change.”

According to ZACH, “Zimbabwe has high maternal, neonatal and child mortality and morbidity rates when compared to other countries in the region and other regions of the world. The maternal mortality ratio continues to increase every year.” The most recent figures compiled by the United Nations Development Programme show that in Zimbabwe 790 mothers died for every 100,000 births compared to 12 in Canada in 2008.

“The impact of a mother’s death in any part of the world is life-shattering. For African children, it can also mean being out on the street with no one to take care of them and little chance of receiving an education,” Nicholson said. “Keeping mothers alive through pregnancy and childbirth is critical for families and societies.”

The ALARM International Program was developed in 1997 by the SOGC, which describes it as “a mobilizing tool designed to motivate health professionals to improve the delivery of emergency obstetrical care in resource-constraint countries.”

Through this three-way partnership with HPIC, the SOGC and ZACH, a total of 120 Zimbabwean health workers will be trained over three sessions. The ultimate goal of the ALARM program is that the students become the teachers and the training continues spreading knowledge and best practices all over the country.
Offering the ALARM training course in Zimbabwe is a component of HPIC’s Focus on the Health of Mothers and Children.

Mississauga and GTA healthcare companies celebrate $400 million in donated medicines and supplies

MISSISSAUGA (Oct. 30, 2012) Two dozen representatives from competing companies in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry in Mississauga and the GTA came together today to celebrate providing $400 million in donated medicine and hospital supplies through Mississauga-based Health Partners International of Canada.

“This celebration reaches out from Mississauga around the world,” said Richard Boileau, Executive Vice President of HPIC, speaking to the donors. “Together, and with other donors and partners across Canada, you have provided 18 million treatments to vulnerable communities in more than 100 countries.”

Dr. Jennifer Wilson, a family physician from Uxbridge, Ontario, was the guest speaker. She regularly travels to Ghana on a medical mission with Physician Travel Packs, each one filled with enough basic medicines and supplies to give 600 treatments, provided by HPIC.

“I wish to thank HPIC, this incredible relief and development agency,” Dr. Wilson said. “I understand why you are the charity of choice for donated medicines in Canada. And thank you, our pharmaceutical industry, for so beautifully joining together in a spirit of collaboration…to improve health globally.”

“When I am passing through the airport, people often ask me what difference will a few boxes of medicine make?” she said at the event, which was held at the Mississauga warehouse where all the medicines are received, sorted and shipped out. “Mother Teresa used to say ‘we feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.'”

Dr. Wilson shared stories that demonstrated the difference that even one treatment can make in the life of a person in the developing world. “A little boy named Joshua was dying of pneumonia, one of the top three causes of death in Ghana,” she said. Thanks to donated medicine that Dr. Wilson had specially ordered from HPIC along with medicines found in the PTP, the boy made a full recovery.

Another patient Dr. Wilson remembers is the man who came to her near death sick with malaria and pneumonia. “I treated him with medicine in the PTPs,” she said, adding that she later found out that he is the village’s social worker for youth. “He is the man who ensures that young people are receiving an education, making sure that they get sex and health education to prevent HIV, delay marriage and delay sexual activity. Can you imagine the ripple effect that his death would have had?”

Dr. Wilson delivered an inspiring message that the work of HPIC and its partners is very worthwhile. “Did our care and your medicine make a difference in the lives of these two of many thousands? You better believe it! It makes a difference to them, their families, their loved ones, their communities.”

Toddler treated just in time

A two-year-old child arrived at a hospital in Honduras in respiratory distress. Fortunately, the hospital had just received bronchodilator medication from Health Partners International of Canada.
 
The donation, contained in three Physician Travel Packs, arrived “just in time to save this young one from severe respiratory compromise,” according to Lynn Van Halteren, a nurse from Ontario who carried the PTPs to Roatan, Honduras.
 
These PTPs provided enough medicine to treat up to 1,800 patients at a medical clinic and public hospital. Every week over 250 people are treated free of charge at these facilities. However, patients sometimes don’t get the treatment they require because they cannot afford to buy it or it is not even available in their country.
 
Thanks to HPIC and Lynn’s team, hundreds of patients suffering from conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, infections, malnutrition and pain, received care and treatment. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she wrote in a project report.

Meet a friend of Honduras

© Friends of Honduran Children
A member of Dr. Friesen’s team, Dr Iain Jamieson, pediatrician assessing a developmentally delayed child.

Dr. Hardy Friesen says it’s like Christmas when he arrives in Honduras on his annual medical mission and opens the Physician Travel Pack.

“It is well packed and contains so many essential medicines,” he says.

Dr. Friesen, a family doctor from Peterborough, Ontario, has been to Honduras on seven medical missions since 2001. That year, he founded the Peterborough Medical Brigades with a local dentist named Dr. Jim McCallum. The medical brigades are part of Dr. McCallum’s organization Friends of Honduran Children.

“After Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998, there was an opportunity to help,” Dr. Friesen says. The Honduran government has said that the hurricane set back the country’s progress by 50 years.

“Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Americas,” says Dr. Friesen. “More than 50 per cent live below the poverty line. Someone told me that if you earn more than $1.50 a day, you’re above the poverty line.”

The Peterborough Medical Brigades send three teams every year. They generally consist of four doctors, two dentists, five nurses, three medical or nursing students and several support workers. In 2006, 54 people served as part of these teams and provided care to an estimated 1,200 people living in rural impoverished areas.

In Honduras they work with a sister organization run by “the Mother Teresa of Central America,” Dr. Friesen says. They try to go to different villages on every trip, often setting up clinics in schools.

In 2006, they were based in Copan, a world heritage site because of its Mayan kingdom ruins. Not far from touristy Copan near the Guatemalan border, there are villages with no electricity or running water. Dr. Friesen and team were able to get out to see patients in six of these villages.

There are many patients who stand out for Dr. Friesen. One of the worst things that happened was when they saw a three-month-old baby. The parents came knocking on the door at night. “But it was too late and the baby died on our dining room table. The parents couldn’t afford heart medication that costs about $8 a month,” Dr. Friesen recalls.

There was a better ending to another story. A Peace Corps worker came and asked Dr. Friesen to make a house call. “A woman was dying of breast cancer and she had no pain relief whatsoever. We were able to help her and the next day we went back and she was pain free. This medicine was able to give her five good days of quality time with her family.”

The people of Copan survive on subsistence farming and it is common to see people in their 80s working the fields. Dr. Friesen says that health problems in Honduras can be characterized as: diseases due to poverty; diseases due to inadequate access to health care; and tropical diseases.

The Honduras work involves the whole family and patients from his Peterborough clinic. “My patients contribute thousands of dollars to our work and almost every member of my family has been to Honduras,” he says. “The money that is raised is used for medicines, interpreters, trucks and special care – one year we paid for a child to have his appendix taken out at a local hospital.”

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” says the father of four. “It is my chance to give back.”

Malawi orphans benefit from nutritional supplements, vitamins & supplies

Nearly one million children are orphans in Malawi, a small country the size of Newfoundland in southern Africa.

Nearly one million children are orphans in Malawi, a small country the size of Newfoundland in southern Africa.

These children have been made orphans largely because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that is sweeping the country. At least 14 per cent of the population is infected with HIV/AIDS. The life expectancy is 37 years old, compared to 80 in Canada.

Added to the orphans’ plight is the fact that Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and has major food shortages. Malnutrition, infection and disease are rampant.

In the northern part of the country, a religious community of sisters has stepped forward to provide care, nourishment, training and medical help for the orphans and support for the guardians and communities struggling to look after these armies of children.

In 1997, the Rosarian Sisters began an orphan care program in Karonga Township. They care for about 4,000 orphans and offer a range of programs to support the children and their communities.

Moved by the plight of these children and seeking to help the sisters care for them, HPIC has developed a project with the support of the KIDZUP Foundation of Montreal. KIDZUP Foundation is the charitable arm of KIDZUP Publications, a publisher of children’s media. They donate a portion of their profits to this project in Malawi.

In early 2007 the Rosarian sisters received a 40-foot container from HPIC. It contained donated vitamins, oral rehydration fluids, nutritional supplements, bottles with rubber nipples and special needles for intravenous feeding for infants.

HPIC’s liaison on the ground is Sister Louise Lefebvre, a Canadian missionary from Quebec. Sister Louise oversaw the unloading and distribution of the aid from HPIC. She is responsible for identifying the needs at the feeding and caring centres run by the Rosarians, as well as for receiving offers of product donations.

Here is what Sister Louise reported about the young baby boy in the photo:

“This is seen too often in the health centres. The young mother gave birth at home and died during the night. The grandmother and an aunt brought the baby, who is only a few hours old, to the centre for feeding. The other type of feeding bottles for premature babies will start very well this little one who will have a feeding diet made and adapted to him. Progressively he will be on the other kind of milk.

“The grandmother will have to learn the process which will be taught to her daily and the child will go back to the village when his weight is stable and the grandmother’s capacity to care for the baby has been monitored and found satisfactory.

The same story is repeated in the other centres. You all have done a great work of mercy….What you do to the little ones of mine…you do unto me!”

HPIC’s “Dr. Bob” receives Order of Canada

Dr. Robert Stephens, C.M.

His life of service is far from over, but Dr. Robert O’Dowda Stephens of Warkworth, Ontario was recently honoured for the work he has accomplished so far.

On May 4 at Rideau Hall, Dr. Bob, who serves on the Board of Directors of Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC), was invested with the Order of Canada for voluntary service and health care.

This year also marks his 60th anniversary as a medical doctor, having graduated from the University of Toronto in 1947. The next year, he married Ruth Petrie, a nurse, who was a constant companion until her death in 2006.

He recalls their short term mission to an Indian reservation in northern British Columbia two days after their wedding. On the trip there, they were called on to use a rope ladder to transfer from their ferry to a dubious little craft to carry them inland. “She just did it,” he says. “I knew then that I had married the right woman. She was game for anything. It served us well in the years ahead.”

The years ahead included a year of French immersion and tropical disease training in Belgium, to prepare the Stephens for their work as missionaries in the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Stephens began by replacing the only physician at a hospital run by the African Inland Mission (AIM) while the doctor went on home leave. After their year at the AIM hospital, the Stephens went on to establish service 120 km further north. After 10 years, they had built a 100-bed hospital with outpatient services, nurse and midwife training and four satellite clinics.

“The big health issues back then were malaria, leprosy, intestinal parasites and pneumonia,” says Stephens. “And a lot of people had what we called sleeping sickness from being bitten by tsi tsi flies. There were snakebites and wounds from leopards, elephants and buffalos. Burns were frequent too because of the cooking fires in the middle of people’s huts.”

As Bob, Ruth and their two children prepared to come home for a year on a regular leave in 1960, the country was moving rapidly toward independence. They were able to leave on the last plane before independence was declared with its ensuing conflict.

Although they did not know it at the time, they would never return to Africa to live.

Because the situation in the new Zaire was still unstable, the family chose to remain in Canada past their one-year leave. Dr. Bob set up a private practice, and was soon heavily solicited to treat missionaries, both leaving and coming home.

He became involved with EMAS, the Evangelical Medical Aid Society, as president in 1968 and eventually as part-time executive director in 1985. When the Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) asked him to come on part-time as their director as well, he left his practice to devote himself full time to these two organizations in 1990.

His work has taken him around the world, especially China, Cuba and Africa, helping in the establishment of medical missions. He has served as a consultant for several Christian organizations including HPIC, Interserve, SIM, and World Relief Canada. Apart from serving on HPIC’s Board, he is also a member of HPIC’s Board Medical Committee.

Although he is now officially retired, Dr. Bob says he is asking God to lead him into this new chapter of his life. “I think I know my place in the body of Christ,” he says. “I am a red blood cell, carrying oxygen to all the other parts. I just have to keep moving.”

He says he was shocked when he received a letter from the Governor General, advising him that he was being appointed a member of the Order of Canada. But he says he is glad that the government recognizes the value of voluntary service. “I am accepting this honour as a representative of all medical missionaries.”

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean’s citation of Dr. Robert O. Stephens:

Robert O. Stephens, C.M.
Warkworth, Ontario
Member of the Order of Canada

Robert Stephens has greatly contributed to Canada’s reputation as a caring and giving nation. For over 50 years, he has tirelessly worked to provide health care and medical treatment for the world’s most needy. In 1949, as a young doctor, he went to the Belgian Congo, and, over the next decade, set up a local hospital with nursing and midwifery schools as well as satellite clinics. Throughout his career, he provided leadership to the Evangelical Medical Aid Society and the Christian Medical and Dental Society, expanding and participating in their outreach programs in developing countries. Now retired, he continues to help those in need as a member of the board of directors of Health Partners International of Canada.

HPIC’s President and Chairman meet Prince Charles

The Prince is the royal patron of International Health Partners – U.K., a sister organization that was established in 2004 with the help of HPIC.

John Kelsall, President of HPIC, and Jake Epp, Chairman of HPIC, met HRH Prince Charles and several CEOs’ of the global pharmaceutical industry at a dinner at Clarence House on June 11.

The Prince is the royal patron of International Health Partners – U.K., a sister organization that was established in 2004 with the help of HPIC.

The dinner was hosted with the hope of bringing industry leadership in Europe together to discuss how to work together through IHP-UK and HPIC to improve access to needed medicines in the developing world.

“The Prince told us that he is eager to see the success of HPIC spread to the U.K.,” says John Kelsall, President of HPIC.