By Yasmine Vaughan, HCW Mission Project Specialist
Apparently, hospital beds are not Prime two-day shipping eligible.
One of the biggest obstacles to getting medical supplies to Sierra Leone is the shipping cost, especially for larger items that cannot be carried by mission teams. When HCW Board member Rick Peterson approached HCW and said he would cover the cost of shipping for hospital beds being donated to us by Project CURE, we jumped at the chance. Project CURE will be sending 100 emergency relief hospital beds to Sierra Leone, to replace some of the older or broken beds at Mercy Hospital.
These beds are an incredible blessing to Mercy, but have also allowed us to be a blessing to others as well. In March of 2021, HCW formed the Rising Tides Global Public Health Coalition for organizations and individuals that share a calling to provide healthcare to vulnerable people around the world. Our goal is to share resources and best practices, and discuss shared obstacles.
In our second meeting, we discussed the challenges we each had with getting supplies abroad, and Brent Phillips, CEO of Cherish Uganda hospital, told us how his organization spent almost $100,000 in shipping, customs, and other fees to get a container of supplies to his hospital in Entebbe, Uganda.
When it became apparent that Mercy Hospital would only need 30 beds, we reached out to our partners in Sierra Leone and offered to let them have the extra beds. These hospital beds will not only go to Mercy Hospital, but will be placed in Kissy United Methodist Hospital in Freetown, the Sierra Leone Mission School Clinic in Freetown, Mission of Hope Rotifunk Hospital in Rotifunk, and the Rural Health Care Initiative's birth-waiting home in Bo. We are grateful to share this blessing with our partners, which has strengthened the relationships in the coalition and reminded us of one of the values we have at HCW: radical collaboration.
We are really excited to place these beds in Mercy Hospital, and thankful that the beds being shared with the other clinics will be "helping children worldwide"!
On Friday, January 18, Mercy Hospital officially opened the doors of its long-awaited Surgical Wing. The celebration included remarks from various dignitaries and Mercy leadership, a welcome song performed by Mercy staff, the Act of Dedication performed by Bishop Yambasu, an official ribbon-cutting and tour of the new surgical wing, and refreshments. Bishop John K. Yambasu, District Medical Officer Dr. Roland Carshon-Marsh, UMC Health Coordinator Catherine Norman, UMC Bo District Superintendent Reverend Francis Charley, Chairman of the UMC Health Board Dr. Dennis Marke, and HCW Executive Director Melody Curtiss each shared remarks at the ceremony.
Reverend Charley opened the ceremony with prayer, stating that “this hospital is a state of the art hospital and is going to provide facilities and treatment for patients in the country and even beyond.” Bishop Yambasu shared that this day is the result of “the passion, dedication and commitment of our friends from the United States. Helping Children Worldwide has been involved in our work with the Child Rescue Centre and Mercy Hospital for more than 20 years.” Catherine Norman reflected on Mercy's history, saying “almost 13 years ago, a one-room health clinic with two health staff was established to provide first aid, nutrition and basic health care to the children of the CRC. In 2007, the building in front of us was transformed into Mercy Hospital. I am glad that today, the dream of a functional surgical building has come true. With this building, Mercy Hospital has now been empowered to provide quality care not only to the Bo, but the entire district, and even beyond.”
The Bishop performed the official Act of Dedication, asking God to “graciously accept this building which we now dedicate to thee, to thy service, and to thy glory, that in it skill and tenderness may unite to bring health and cure to those who come for aid…. Grant that those who come here in weakness may be made strong, that those who come in pain may find relief, and that those who come in sorrow may find joy and gladness.”
On behalf of HCW, Mrs. Curtiss recognized the contributions of all of its donors, particularly the large bequests of Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Stafford, VA, without whose generosity the wing would not have been built, and the Peterson Family Foundation, who sponsored the shipment of surgical supplies and equipment necessary for an operating theatre. Mrs. Curtiss also recognized the special contributions of Mercy Laboratory Technician, Joseph Lamin, who is heading up the launch of Mercy Hospital’s new Electronic Medical Information System (see story at bottom of newsletter).
Mercy’s surgical wing includes two operating theatres, a recovery room, decontamination room, sterilzation room, male and female changing rooms, medical supplies storage, reception and doctors’ consultation rooms. Second floor includes a private and semi-private wards, male and female wards, conference room and ICU. Mercy’s surgical program will operate on a limited capacity, as they await the arrival of a blood bank. Until this important piece of equipment arrives, Mercy will continue to provide the surgeries that it always has, now in a new, state-of-the-art surgical facility. Dr. Amara continues to work with Dr. Boima (a COMAHS professor and surgeon) to assist in surgeries beyond his current level of expertise, and now that those surgeries can be performed at Mercy, other staff will benefit in training opportunities as well.
Qualified surgeons who wish to perform surgeries at Mercy with Dr. Amara’s assistance, will be welcomed for the purpose of providing Mercy staff with teaching opportunities. This will include medical teams from overseas from time to time. Nonprofits utilizing Mercy OR for their own medical missions will do trainings as part of the privilege of performing surgeries at Mercy, and leave behind unused equipment and supplies for future use by Mercy.
Project CURE is scheduled to provide training in obstetrics and critical care to Mercy staff this year, and Dr. Amara and Matron August Kpanebaum will be attending GBGM training in obstetrics and Cesarean-sections in February-March.
Lead contractor, Maada Salia handed the keys to Mercy Hospital’s new OR wing over to the staff on Monday, November 5th. Over the weekend of November 1st, the Mercy staff worked tirelessly to load in the equipment and supplies delivered in September by Project CURE, and ensured that the wing was ready for operations. Dr. Boima, a well-known surgeon in Sierra Leone and Dr. Amara’s mentor declared the wing and its two operating theatres “excellent” and “the nicest in Bo.” “I am very happy that the OR is now completed which means that the referral cases for surgery such as obstructed delivery and c-sections will now be treated here, “ said Dr. Amara, Mercy’s chief medical officer. “Before, the space was so limited we were very restricted in what we were able to do. Now, there are many more possibilities to help the community.” Head Matron Sister Augusta Kpanebaum agreed, “We have been waiting for this day a long time. We will be able to attend to cases instead of referring, especially maternity. We are so ready to go and want to thank our partners for the initiative. We are all very grateful!"
On Thursday, November 8, the first surgeries to be performed in the new OR were done by doctors affiliated with the Praise Foundation team in conjunction with trainings they are providing to Mercy staff in critical care management, obstetrics, and ultrasound. Like all medical professionals working at Mercy, PRAISE Foundation staff were required to provide medical credentials information to the Medical and Dental Counsel prior to performing surgeries at Mercy. Over the course of the first two days of operations in the new OR wing, 56 surgeries were performed by the Praise Foundation team with assistance from the Mercy staff, most of these were hernia operations and other minor surgical procedures.
Mercy will operate through the end of 2018 on a limited capacity, as they await the arrival of a blood bank and an anesthesia machine later this year. Until these important pieces of equipment arrive, Mercy will not be able to perform major surgeries, but will continue to provide the surgeries that it always has, now in a new, state-of-the-art surgical facility. Likewise, Mercy staff does not yet have the expertise to perform more complex surgeries such as c-sections. Dr. Amara will continue to work with Dr. Boima (a COMAHS professor and surgeon) to assist in surgeries beyond his current level of expertise, and now that those surgeries can be performed at Mercy, other staff will benefit in training opportunities as well.
Qualified surgeons who wish to perform surgeries at Mercy with Dr. Amara’s assistance, will be welcomed for the purpose of providing Mercy staff with teaching opportunities. This will include medical teams from overseas from time to time. Nonprofits utilizing Mercy OR for their own medical missions will do trainings as part of the privilege of performing surgeries at Mercy, and leave behind unused equipment and supplies for future use by Mercy. The PRAISE team has already demonstrated the value of simply having the facility with the collaborative spirit of Mercy Hospital available in their community.
Additional training for Mercy staff is also being planned. Project CURE is scheduled to provide training in obstetrics and critical care, and Dr. Amara and Matron August Kpanebaum will be attending GBGM training in obstetrics and Cesarean-sections in February of 2019. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on January 18, 2019.
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