Health System Wins Leadership Award

BRUNSWICK, Georgia: July 23, 2008 –The Georgia Hospital Association (GHA) has awarded Southeast Georgia Health System the 2008 GHA Community Leadership Award for its support of the International Seafarers’ Center in Brunswick. The award was announced at GHA’s annual summer meeting on Hilton Head Island, S.C., on July 18 and accepted by Michael D. Hodges, Hospital Authority Board Chairman and Gary R. Colberg, FACHE, president & chief executive officer.

The non-profit Seafarers’ Center (Center) was established in 1982 as a worldwide human services agency supporting the many and varied needs of merchant mariners and longshoremen. While their ships are docked at the Port of Brunswick, the Center provides these men and women with chaplain services, transportation, counseling, mediation/conflict resolutions, telephone banks and email access to contact loves ones, as well as a place to mail letters, wire money home, purchase personal items and native food or just relax. However, one of the Center’s major missions is to provide access to medical and dental services. That is where the Health System comes in.

From the treatment of minor cuts and bruises, bug bites, and broken bones, to providing preventative health screenings and treatment of major emergencies, the Health System provides expedited health care to those mariners and dockworkers who are in need. “We provide support in two ways— by providing the mariners free access to the regular clinics we conduct with our local student nurses and by sponsoring the program with donations of medical services, supplies, and money,” says Brenda Antonio, RN, director of Health Promotion and Wellness at the Health System. “We can also take them to our Emergency Care Center if need be and expedite their care so they can return to their ship before it departs from the port.”

Antonio adds that if further hospitalization is needed, she assists in contacting shipping personnel to obtain permission to allow the mariner to remain at the Health System or to be transported to another facility. This collaboration between the Seafarers’ Center and the Health System is reportedly the only Center of its kind in the world where these types of medical services are provided, Antonio adds.

According to Charlie Ratcliff, RN, the Health System’s clinical liaison with the program, the Health System began supporting the Seafarers’ Center in 2003 and began utilizing nursing students from the then Coastal Georgia Community College which is now College of Coastal Georgia around 2005 to help conduct the health screenings.

“I’m a liaison between our nursing students (College of Coastal Georgia) and the Seafarers’ staff,” Ratcliff says. “Depending on the nursing students’ clinical rotations, we usually conduct a clinic at the Center on Fridays between 1-3 p.m. Screenings include basic health screenings for such issues as hypertension, diabetes, and weight.” Ratcliffe serves as a resource to the students while they are there. “It is really an honor to be a part of such a program working with both the students and staff at the Seafarers’ Center and getting an opportunity to interact with such a diverse group of sailors,” he says.

Both Antonio and Ratcliff say the Health System also helps promote the Center to the community. According to Jack McConnell, executive director of the Seafarers’ Center, the Health System’s support is invaluable and he understands fully why the Health System was presented the award. “The Health System is a significant benefactor and has been generous in supporting the Seafarers’ Center—whatever we have suggested or asked for, we have received,” McConnell says. “Without the Health System’s support, particularly the work of Brenda and Charlie, we would not be able to do what we do. They make it possible to provide health care and we would not be here without them.”

This annual award was established in 1997 to recognize a GHA-member hospital that has made exemplary contributions to the health and well-being of Georgians through leadership in the area of community health improvement. To qualify for the award, the winner must make an out-standing contribution to the community and develop community connections that advance the area’s health status, which results in heightened community involvement in addressing local needs.

“Winning this award is a testament to what an outstanding job our community has done in working together for the betterment of not only the health care of our residents, but to those who visit our area for work or recreation,” Antonio says. “I’m so proud to be a part of what the Health System and the International Seafarers’ Institute has done to provide this much-needed service.”