Local nonprofit Palmetto Medical Initiative has launched a $1.5 million campaign to build five more medical centers in Central America and East Africa by 2015.
Charleston-based PMI works to move beyond traditional, short-term medical mission work that helps immediate needs but often doesn't provide long-term, sustainable medical care for the world's impoverished people.
Instead, PMI raises money and sends short-term volunteers to organize native workers to build medical centers and then teach a core group to run the medical center and provide medical care to their own families, friends and neighbors.
More than $1.2 million of PMI's new $1.5 million Revolutionizing Global Health campaign has been pledged already by donors including Seacoast Church, philanthropist Darla Moore and others. PMI hopes to raise the balance before year's end.
An anonymous local businessman has said he will match contributions up to $100,000 made before Dec. 31, PMI Executive Director Matt Alexander said.
"We are humbled by our community's outpouring of support and will turn their investment into reliable, quality care for thousands who have never had it before," Alexander said.
PMI was created in 2008 by several Charlestonians, including Alexander, who wanted to fulfill impoverished people's medical needs for the long haul.
The nonprofit opened its first regional medical center almost three years ago in Masindi, Uganda. Built by Ugandans and now run by Ugandan medical staff, the center became self-sufficient in its first 13 months.
Today, the center serves more than 1,300 patients each month and is staffed by 57 native Ugandans.
The average doctor visit costs patients $2, which means 98 percent of patients can pay for their care.
A second hospital following the same model will open next month in El Viejo, Nicaragua.
Before opening the hospital, PMI's short-term volunteers provided care to 4,500 local patients. While providing that care, they trained local staff who will run
the hospital when they leave.
Through a partnership with medical schools around the country, including MUSC, the nonprofit has sent 849 medical and business volunteers on 10-day missions to treat patients and provide continuing medical education to native staff.
Moore, a prominent philanthropist, joined one of PMI's mission trips in 2009.
"I saw firsthand the desperate health care needs of so many people," Moore said. "PMI has proven its ability to provide the same quality health care we value in the U.S."
For more, go to www. palmettomedical.org or call 696-2223.
Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563, follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes or subscribe to her at facebook.com/jennifer.b.hawes.
Dr. Ed O’Bryan, co-founder of Palmetto Medical Initiative, talks with Clinical Officer Alex Bina, one of nine original staff members at PMI’s Masindi-Kitara Medical Centre in Uganda.×
Dr. Cody Carpenter examines a young child in Uganda during a medical mission trip with Palmetto Medical Initiative.×
Matt Alexander, co-founder and executive director of Palmetto Medical Initiative (provided)×
When Eddie was 4 years old, he walked through a fire pit in Uganda and suffered life-threatening burns to both legs. However, his parents brought him to the Masindi-Kitara Medical Centre shortly after its outpatient clinic opened. Staff saved the child’s life.×