The Rhema Foundation Canada

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10 Years of Change: Closing the Global Surgery Gap

One of The Rhema Foundation Canada’s three main pillars is Heath and Wellbeing, which means that we strive to ensure that people in communities here and abroad are mentally, physically, socially well and ultimately living disease-free. In keeping with this goal, The Rhema Foundation Canada is embarking on a new project that will help to close the healthcare gap for people living in vulnerable communities around the world. This edition of our ‘10 Years of Change’ blog series highlights this project and details how The Rhema Foundation Canada is working alongside some of the world’s leading academic institutions to improve the health of those in need.

‘Operation: Global Surgery Start-Up’ – also known as ‘Operation: Global SSU’ – is an ambitious project that was initiated by the University of Toronto, in partnership with Harvard University and the University of Oxford. Under the direction of Dr. Lee Errett – a Professor of Global Surgery at the University of Toronto – Operation: Global SSU aims to “increase access to basic surgical and anesthesia care for some of the most vulnerable populations around the globe.”

The project was initially designed to serve as a type of ‘Doctors Without Borders’ for global surgeries, as basic problems such as fractures, hernias, appendicitis and obstructed labour often result in unnecessary death when not treated properly. In fact, 18.6 million people have suffered death due to surgical mortality in the past decade alone – a figure that does not include the 5 billion people globally who do not have access to basic surgical care.

This gap in surgical access is not only deathly, but it can also cause a major financial strain on communities. Researchers have estimated that 25% of people who receive surgical treatment will suffer financial ruin due to the exorbitant cost of care. Although addressing this inadequate and inequitable access to care may cost upwards of $359 billion according to The World Bank, the cost of not closing this gap could amount to a staggering $12.3 trillion by 2030.

While it is clear that providing surgical support is a pressing issue that cannot be ignored, Dr. Errett and his team do not simply want to provide immediate relief for the people in these communities. Rather, Operation: Global SSU has been designed to focus on building and sustaining the necessary infrastructure to provide access to surgical and anesthesia care. This approach not only allows the team to increase access to care, but also to train for effective care and collaborate with government ministries, local healthcare providers and NGOs to provide and strengthen the provision of surgical care. In other words, the project goes beyond a temporary medical mission to instead act as “a catalyst for sustainable change.”

The Rhema Foundation Canada is assisting Operation: Global SSU is a number of ways, but primarily through its fundraising efforts. Fundraising is critical in order to help carry out the three critical phases of the project. The first is the Start-Up Phase, which involves working with the government and local stakeholders to provide medical staff and infrastructure, as well as securing a commitment to sustaining the Surgical Base once it is up and running. The Start-Up Phase is followed by the Training Phase, which involves foreign nurses, paramedics, anesthetists, training surgeons and other medical equipment technicians working with local medical professionals to upgrade and operationalize systems and procedures. Finally, the Sustain Phase involves developing a follow-up protocol to provide ongoing support to local staff and ultimately creating a repeatable process that can be carried out by future medical teams and other universities.

By providing financial support for Operation: Global SSU, The Rhema Foundation hopes to not only assist in closing the global surgery gap, but also to ensure that vulnerable communities have the support they need to create sustainable healthcare systems that can provide care for years to come. In short, this lofty goal is one that reinforces The Rhema Foundation Canada’s ongoing commitment to addressing the health and wellbeing of the vulnerable and marginalized.