Surplus hospital beds heading to Ethiopia

Surplus hospital beds heading to Ethiopia

Joe Paraskevas | Winnipeg Free Press | 19 October 2007

Twenty-five former hospital beds destined to become scrap metal were neatly lined up Thursday in a west Winnipeg warehouse bound for a much different fate.

The beds — and a truckload of other medical supplies — were slated for the new pediatric AIDS wing of an Ethiopian university hospital.

In the mid-morning drizzle, a handful of workers for two charities began to hoist the cargo into an empty 13-metre truck trailer. It was the seventh such load this year to leave the warehouse packed with equipment unwanted by Manitoba’s health-care system and headed for other countries.

“The enormity of what’s disposed of is totally overwhelming,” said Valerie McIntyre, president of International HOPE Canada Inc. For the last six years, the Winnipeg-based organization has slowly filled the 3,500-square-metre warehouse near Polo Park with large and small health-care items.

Surgical gloves and drapery, syringes, needles, crutches, walkers and wheelchairs are arrayed throughout the facility. International HOPE volunteers check that the larger items are in working order, make any needed repairs and try to impose order on what McIntyre refers to as “a sea” of unused goods.

International HOPE was created by McIntyre predecessor, Phyllis Reader, a St. Boniface General Hospital operating room nurse. Reader volunteered with organizations assisting in surgeries around the world. Struck by the shortages she witnessed in medical supplies and the surplus of items in Canada, Reader began collecting unwanted materials. She set up International HOPE to team up with other agencies to distribute them around the world.

The organization is believed to be among very few in this country to collect and reliably distribute health-care equipment. McIntyre joked that the 40-member team, largely made up of former health-care workers, is always looking for new volunteers for its Wednesday and Saturday morning shifts.

In this year alone, International HOPE has helped deliver medical supplies to Nigeria, Ukraine, Uganda and Jamaica.

For the mission to Ethiopia, the organization is working with Markham, Ont.-based Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, which in turn is working with the William J. Clinton Foundation, run by the former United States president. The Clinton foundation has contributed US$250,000 toward a new wing at the All Africa Leprosy Education, Rehabilitation and Training (ALERT) Hospital in Addis Ababa.

“Our role is to equip it with everything you could possibly imagine,” said Stephanie Ashton, the CCF’s resource procurement manager.

The CCF, part of a network with connections to 55 countries, is responsible for shipping the medical equipment to Ethiopia.

The collaboration with International HOPE has gone so well, the CCF plans to continue the partnership, Ashton said.