'Operation Empower Health' to provide no-cost healthcare to uninsured people of Savannah

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - St. Joseph's/Candler and Georgia Southern University are supporting the U.S. Military to provide no-cost healthcare to those in Savannah who don't have insurance or are underinsured.

The plan has been in the making for over a year, and now, it's finally about to happen. It's a win-win situation. The military gets their training, and the thousands of people in Savannah get healthcare.

"What can happen if people sit down and say, 'okay, what can we do?' And Savannah has that type of dynamic," said St. Joseph's/Candler President, Paul P. Hinchey.

St. Joseph's, Georgia Southern, and the 165th Airlift Wing announced on Wednesday that hundreds of military servicemen from all branches are involved in the healthcare operation. The military has a program called the 'innovative readiness training program,' where they go to different communities and provide real-life deployment training while tending to the needs of the public that is uninsured or underinsured. They'll be providing services such as medical, dental, and even veterinary services to communities.

This started with St. Joseph's/Candler and Georgia Southern applying to bring this training to Savannah. It's taken a year to have it approved, but the military gets to bring service to Savannah communities.

"They like to pick cities around the United States where they have actual simulations of a disaster and they bring in their doctors and nurses and technicians, and they're going to be about 400 professionals here to go through a boots on the ground, training of providing medical services to a community," Hinchey said.

The innovative readiness training is a way the military can stay up-to-par with real-life medical situations, especially with areas like Garden City, which has the highest poverty rate in Chatham County.

"We do want to do all we can do to help those that are underserved in our community, and I think this is a great example of our community coming together and having an opportunity to make a difference," said Mayor Eddie DeLoach, City of Savannah.

During this time period of nine days, there will be 6-8,000 people who will get medical attention at no cost.

"The bill to the community is between $1.5-3 million. It's just free healthcare. That's a staggering number," Hinchey said.

The project is set to start in May, and St. Joseph's/Candler will also be following up with the people who will be helped.

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