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.
MONTREAL, Quebec – September 25, 2012 – A large donation of a vitally needed treatment for cholera is on its way from the Montreal pharmaceutical company Pharmascience Inc. to the African country of Sierra Leone to treat people there who have been stricken by cholera in a serious outbreak of the disease which started earlier this year.
(Shipment from Health Partners International of Canada will save lives of people affected by disease which has struck nearly 20,000.)
The donation has been made by Pharmascience to Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) and will be sent by the Montreal-based relief and development agency to Sierra Leone in partnership with Plan Canada, which is active in the West African country.
With almost 20,000 people infected and close to 300 killed by the outbreak to date, the Government of Sierra Leone has declared the cholera outbreak in the country a public health emergency. The alarming situation is linked to Sierra Leone’s past conflict, which caused a massive migration to cities, leading to overpopulation, poor water and sanitation. Cholera is a contagious, acute intestinal infection spread through contaminated food or water and can kill within hours without treatment.
Pharmascience is donating 15 pallets of its Pendopharm brand Pediatric Electrolyte, worth close to $70,000. Oral rehydration is exactly what is urgently needed since 80 per cent of people with cholera can be successfully treated if they have timely access to oral rehydration solution.
“This is a serious humanitarian crisis that has received little notice in Canada,” said Glen Shepherd, President and CEO of HPIC. “We are very grateful to Pharmascience for stepping up to make this impressive donation that will undoubtedly save many lives.”
Pharmascience has been a long-time generous donor of medicines to HPIC for overseas humanitarian use, making major annual contributions as well as special donations such as this in response to particular international crises. Over the past five years, Pharmascience has donated products to HPIC with a wholesale value of $23.5 million, making it one of the most generous product donors in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry.
While most people are packing their suitcases for summer holidays, hoping they won’t be dinged by airline luggage restrictions, Calgary doctor Manuel Mah is stuffing as much prescription medication into his bags as he can fit.
The Rockyview Hospital physician flies out Saturday for the impoverished remote mountain villages of Ecuador.
Mah is part of a two-week medical mission to bring basic health care to villagers who often go years without medical attention.
“It’s a huge thing for them because they could never afford these kinds of pharmaceuticals on their own,” Mah said Wednesday as he packed for the trip.
Mah will be carrying two 23-kilogram packs containing drugs and supplies that will allow his team to treat patients in mobile clinics.
The drugs, donated by Health Partners International of Canada, will be enough for 1,200 treatments. The only catch Mah and his team must lug the packs each day as they make their way up the steep and nauseatingly windy roads of the Ecuadorian Andes.
“We’re up at 9,000-feet elevation and the bus rides can be a little bit thrilling on those roads,” Mah admits. “But the views are spectacular.”
The mobile team, assembled by Medical Ministry International, moves to a new village each day.
Villagers line up for hours to see doctors, many of them travelling huge distances for the care.
“These people, some of them see us once a year when we show up. Otherwise, they don’t seek medical attention locally unless it’s a dire crisis, a life-threatening thing.”
Mah said the team tries to do as much as they can while they are there, providing fluoridation treatments to children and referring more serious medical issues to a volunteer surgical team in Ambato, south of the capital city of Quito.
Sixty-year old Hassibulah had been working as a surgical nurse in Kabul, Afghanistan to support his family of nine children when he began feeling ill and dizzy which made keeping a regular work schedule very difficult. Six months ago he arrived at IBN SINA Cardiac Hospital in Kabul seeking help for his increasingly severe dizziness and he was diagnosed as having hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and high blood-pressure.
Hassibulah was initially prescribed a medication for his illness which was not very effective and his cardiologist made the decision to switch him to Atorvastatine, a medication provided by the HPIC CBAM project and donated by Teva Canada. As a result of his new treatment he is now able to work regularly and provide for his wife and children but must undergo monthly check-ups to monitor his improving health.
At IBN SINA Cardiac Hospital the demand for cardiac medication and antibiotics for post-operative care is constant and at times doctors have been forced to purchase medications themselves for patients who could not afford, but desperately needed them. The Head of the Medical Department, Dr. Rahim Yassin, describes this generosity as “our duty”. Patients will occasionally buy their own medication at the local bazaar but the availability and quality of the medicine is often questionable according to the cardiologist.
Yassin explains that without the high-quality medication coming from HPIC and our pharmaceutical and healthcare supply donors he would not be able to treat the large number of patients that the hospital welcomes on a daily basis. In the outpatient section of the hospital there are an estimated 150 patients treated a day, and the hospital has an inpatient wing with 60 beds that is often overcrowded.
In 2011, the Afghan Ministry of Health announced that cardiac illness is on the rise in many parts of the country and that at least one Afghan dies of cardiac illness every day.
“Every human being should help the sick and needy based on ability and available resources.” These words were penned by Teva Canada’s founder, Leslie Dan, and echo in the company’s philosophy to this day. Teva Canada and HPIC have a long-standing partnership that makes this corporate philosophy a reality, and the impact of their dedication to help those in need is considerable.
Twelve years old and living on the street in one of the poorest countries of the world, Djibe already had a pretty hard life. When he was seen by Canadian medical volunteers, his foot was severely injured and infected.
“His wound was cleansed and dressed and he received a course of antibiotics,” wrote Rod Le Roy of the Reverend Charles F. Johnston Charitable Foundation in his report on the Physician Travel Pack he carried to Senegal. “He was then visited by a medic daily until his wound healed. He would have lost his foot or leg without treatment and antibiotics.”
Months later some team members visited Djibe and reported that “he continues to be healthy and strong, with both feet.”
Le Roy’s foundation is in partnership with the Maison de la Gare, an organization that is dedicated to helping the street kids of St. Louis in Senegal. According to the Canadian International Development Agency, Senegal is one of the world’s poorest countries, with approximately 34 percent of its population living on less than US$1.25/day.
Sixty-eight per cent of the population is under 25 and many rural families are extremely poor and cannot afford to look after their children. “Les Talibés” is a term to describe boys, as young as four years old, who are sent to study the Koran under the instruction of a “Marabout”, teacher of the Koran. They often end up on the street begging for food.
These are the kids that Maison de la Gare and the Reverend Charles F. Johnston Charitable Foundation are helping. Their clinic also responds to urgent health needs in the broader community.
“The medications and supplies provided by Health Partners International of Canada are simply unavailable to the children of St. Louis,” wrote Le Roy. “The fact that the medications are donated demonstrates to the children that they are valued and not forgotten. Many of the medications mean the difference between life and death for many children.”
HPIC received a great report from Healthy Horizons for Children and Families about their mission to Honduras and the impact of the Physician Travel Pack medicines provided by HPIC.
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Women and children seen at 49 clinics in rural Honduras “greatly benefitted” from a shipment of medicines Health Partners International of Canada provided to HOPE International’s project in Honduras.
“Families in the rural areas of Comayagua department in Honduras have trouble accessing medicines when they need them,” wrote Michelle Langlois of HOPE in a report to HPIC. “Rural families even in very remote areas had access to needed medicines on a continual basis throughout the project period. &The types of medicine sent, which primarily treat children, are extremely important in Honduras.”
Money freed up by the donated medicines was used to do community training in health issues, and family breadwinners were able to get to work thanks to treatment rather than losing days to illness.
Ana was one of the children treated with these medicines. Severely underweight from birth, she was being monitored carefully. One of four children in a family headed by a single mother with very little work and no education, Ana had a tough start in life.
“Her mother and the community health monitors did all they could to help improve the baby’s condition including a community food drive,” Langlois said. “However what really helped the little girl to get back to her normal weight were the Vitamin C and Iron supplements, donated by Health Partners International of Canada.”
Maria, Ana’s mother, was able to get the needed vitamins easily since they had been distributed to the local community pharmacy.
“María was very grateful for the fact that she has access to a pharmacy with quality medications right in her own community,” Langlois wrote.” Recently, the community celebrated Ana’s last growth monitoring meeting (24 months) at which she weighed in at 29.7 lbs.: an adequate weight for her age.”
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.
Many Canadians dream about a vacation in tropical Dominican Republic with white sandy beaches and sunshine every day. Yet, many Dominicans would trade in their beaches for access to basic health care and medicine.
Dr. Ken Taylor, a family doctor in St. Catharines, Ontario and his wife Denise, run an organization that enlists Canadian tourists in their mission to distribute medical supplies around the world. On a recent trip to the D.R., Not Just Tourists carried three Physician Travel Packs to two clinics.
“It is unexplainable how many people in poor conditions suffer daily without the necessary medicines,” wrote the Taylors in a report to HPIC. “Your help (through the Physician Travel Packs) is a blessing and helps these people live more productive lives.”
The three PTPs provided enough medicines to treat up to 1,800 patients, including baby Rosa and a young man named Raul.
“One-year-old Rosa came in with an abscess on her temple the size of a peach pit,” the Taylors wrote. “After draining it, we were able to give her an antibiotic suspension & Tylenol to take home with her to heal and avoid further infection.”
Raul, a 24-year-old worker, presented with a 15-day-old open sore on his shin. “It was infected and after cleanings and treatment with Ceftin (an antibiotic), he was back at work,” the Taylors wrote.
The people in Rosa and Raul’s community do not have money to provide for their medical needs. Unless they have an emergency, they wait until the donated medicines arrive from Canada to seek health care.
Planning life-changing surgery
A team of volunteer surgeons with Operation Walk Canada Medical Mission performed surgery on 29 women and three men in an impoverished community in Ecuador.
Each one of these operations represents a life totally transformed. The ripple effects of this healing radiate bringing hope and change to the individual’s family and community.
One such person was a 24-year-old single mother who had been living in poverty and barely surviving because she could no longer walk.
This was due to bilateral hip osteoarthritis. This common type of osteoarthritis causes significant problems, including severe pain and a limited range of motion.
“She was up walking with crutches the next day,” reported Dr. Robert Bourne in his report to HPIC, “and she was discharged three days later.”
HPIC provided general anesthetic for the operation, pain medication, as well as medicine to prevent infection. “Thank you very much! Dr. Bourne said. “You have made a great difference!”
Thanks to the combined efforts of HPIC and Operation Walk, this young mother has her life back and her children have their mother back.