When the next hurricane or earthquake strikes, a locally based international-aid organisation will be ready to make sure victims have the hygiene supplies they need, thanks in part to Southeast Georgia Rotary club (US, District 6920) members.
More than 50 Rotarians from 10 different clubs volunteered their time on Saturday to pack 1,000 disaster kits at MAP International, a faith-based nonprofit that provides medical supplies to those in need around the globe.
“It was a full day of Rotary fellowship, service and fun,” said Hamsa Thota, Governor of Rotary District 6920, which includes clubs in Brunswick, Savannah, Macon, Augusta and other South Georgia cities.
The kits included antiseptic wipes, soaps and other basic hygiene needs and will inevitably help people in the midst of chaos.
But another Rotary-MAP partnership forged last year is aimed at something much more local and equally urgent.
The Saving Lives with Medicine programme, a collaboration between Rotary District 6920 and MAP International, has been providing life-saving medications to indigent clinics in Brunswick and Valdosta since October.
The initiative has already provided nearly 500 in-need patients with medications to treat hypertension, asthma, high cholesterol and diabetes.
In essence, Saving Lives with Medicine provides two clinics — the Coastal Medical Access Project in Brunswick and Partnership Health Centre in Valdosta — with medications at no cost for patients who qualify.
MAP International is able to use its connections with pharmaceutical companies and other providers to access medications at no or reduced cost, and the Rotary club district provides funds to ship those medications to the two clinics monthly.
“We measure the success of our programmes with one life saved at a time,” said Martin Smith, a MAP International spokesman.
“When you have people who don’t have access to managing their high blood pressure or diabetes, you’re talking about a real threat to lives. Locally, that’s as important as anywhere.”
More than a dozen Rotarians and other specialists are part of a Rotary club task force that oversees the programme and coordinates with partner agencies, Thota said.
“Their skill sets include physicians, surgeons, pharmacists, lawyers, bankers, et cetera,” Thota said of the task force’s membership.
“This group came together to figure out our project plan and how it will work, because it requires those professional skill sets.”
In Brunswick, Saving Lives with Medicine has provided more than 350 in-need patients with the medicines they need but may not be able to afford.
Laura Johnson, a physician assistant with the Coastal Medical Access Project in Brunswick, said Saving Lives with Medicine has helped the clinic — operated by Southeast Georgia Health System — serve its clients.
“MAP International has provided us with free medications for acute illness and chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension,” Johnson said.
“Before MAP International’s contribution, our patients were not able to afford these medications, and they were not available through any other free-medication programmes that (Coastal Medical Access Project) offers.”
The three-year pilot programme of Saving Lives with Medicine has been so successful that Rotary and MAP International are eyeing the possibility of expanding it to larger populations in Georgia, Thota said.
“We are ready to look at phase two, where clinics are catering to larger patient volumes,” Thota said.
“What I’m suggesting is that we look at new financial models, where we can bring in different sets of partners and Rotary can provide leadership and community connections.”
Steve Stirling, president and CEO of MAP International, echoed Thota and said he supports expanding the programme to new populations.
“The result of this pilot study exceeded our expectations,” Stirling said.
“MAP looks forward to expanding this programme to additional communities.”
While Thota isn’t quite ready to name specific partners with which the programme could expand, he did say he and other Saving Lives with Medicine representatives are eager to expand the programme.
“Phase two could happen next year,” he said. “Ideally, this could happen sooner than later.”
Such an expansion could take the form of a partnership with a large health system.
It could benefit local communities and health systems by tamping down the number of emergency room visits by patients who simply need medications for conditions like diabetes, Thota said.
Overall, Thota said the Saving Lives with Medicine project has been an opportunity to help Southeast Georgia’s most vulnerable populations, as well as a chance for collaboration between the region’s multitude of dedicated advocates.
“It is a pure joy to work with this group of talented professionals,” he said. “MAP has been a tremendous partner.”
Rotary Club District 6920 has more than 3,200 members in 63 clubs across Southeast Georgia, including in Macon, Augusta, Valdosta, Brunswick, St. Simons Island and Camden and Tift counties.
Source: The Brunswick News