Liberia (MNN) — The story of Grand Bassa Hospital, a government-run hospital in Lower Buchanan, Liberia, West Africa,
is one of perseverance and rejuvenation.
The health care delivery system was
demolished by a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003. Although the country has made
significant moves toward stability and reconstruction, poverty hovers over
roughly 76% of the population.
For those who do attempt to seek treatment for an injury or illness, the
weakened health sector answers inadequately for lack of medicines, equipment, and
personnel. Hospitals are desperately short
of equipment, and roughly half of the equipment they have is in need of
That's where Jim Loeffler, Director of Medical Equipment
Procurement for International Aid, comes in. He traveled to Liberia and Ghana this month to meet with partners
serving in the field. "Initially,
my plan was to return to Liberia to help make an assessment of a county
hospital. We had gone there last year to do an assessment of medical equipment
conditions, and I returned there to see if anything had changed or how we could
do a better job."
What had changed? Not much, he says. "The equipment that we
originally identified that needed to be upgraded still needed to be upgraded. There
was one sterilizer and a distilling unit that was new in the facility, and they
had done some cleaning up, but most of the major equipment that we had
identified as 'very poor' was still at the facility."
Missing manuals, incompatible power connections, and needed repairs
turn generous equipment donations into unusable machines. International Aid's solution is to serve as a critical link
between equipment donors and recipients to guarantee equipment donations are
ready for use. Loeffler explains, "What
we're doing now is verifying what they need as far as replacing equipment to
upgrade their operating rooms and their ob/gyn area, and then continue to work
on this project so we can send a container of refurbished equipment, hopefully,
by the end of this summer."
The equipment will make the doctors' jobs much easier. They've
learned to adapt to their conditions, and they've shown an incredible amount of
ingenuity in utilizing what equipment they do have. Take their operating theater light, for
example. Loeffler says, "What they have now is an old light that is
attached to two pipes that slides back and forth across the bed. They had to retrofit that
light because it's so old that they could not get bulbs for it anymore, so
they actually did some retrofitting."
Loeffler goes on to describe conditions in what should be the jewel of
the hospital. "They also need a new
operating room table. It just doesn't
work anymore. We found less-than-appealing conditions in the birthing area. We'd
like to upgrade their infant incubator."
Once they get the equipment shipped, there will be training
sessions so that national technicians can repair it and keep it in working
order. International Aid wants to help hospitals in
developing nations attain self-sufficiency in equipment operations.
The biggest reason they come alongside is to keep the doors open for
the Gospel. "Missionary healthcare has been a huge portion of being able
to witness to a people group. We support
those who are at the tip of the spear, who are sharing the Gospel. A good way
to share the Gospel is to gain the trust of the people you're witnessing to, and
what better way to gain trust than to take care of their people?"
We'll have a follow-up later this week with a visit to a hospital
in Ghana with challenges of a different sort. In the meantime, check out the Featured Links Section for more ways
you can partner with International Aid teams.