|Dr. James McDaniel checking in at the Tyler |
Airport. One way Mercy Ships gets temperature-
sensitive materials to the ship in Africa
is via volunteers carry-on luggage.
Getting vital medications to the developing world in a timely manner is a challenging task. No one goes to greater lengths to ensure their patients are provided with these life-saving medications than the international charity, Mercy Ships.
The procurement department at the Mercy Ships International Operations Center in Garden Valley, Texas, is charged with the daunting task of shipping medications, lab supplies, hospital equipment, and medical supplies (among other things) to their hospital ship in West Africa. These items are either donated by generous providers or purchased.
“We send one 25,000-pound shipping container every month to the Africa Mercy, packed with medical, food, and technical supplies needed to keep our ship and its programs operational,” says Russ Holmes, Director of International Procurement at Mercy Ships. “About half of the container is solely medical supplies.”
Transporting the container can take up to eight weeks. Once the container is cleared through customs in the host country, the medical supplies are unloaded and available for surgeons and nurses to use to treat patients.
A few key pharmaceuticals, however, require a climate-controlled environment and a first-class method of shipping. Normal shipping procedures do not offer a temperature-sensitive option and are not cost-effective for items like tetanus vaccines, TB vaccines and media plates for the onboard laboratory.
|Pharmacist Miriam Tillman accepts the medicine and |
checks it into the system for patient use.
The medicine arrived safe and sound in Sierra Leone.
For instance, last month Dr. James McDaniel, an orthopedic surgeon traveling to serve on the Africa Mercy, checked an extra piece of luggage at the ticket counter. One rolling suitcase carried clothes and necessities. The other — a rolling cooler — contained vaccines and hospital lab supplies.
“As a volunteer, I’m here to do whatever I can to further the mission of Mercy Ships,” explained Dr. McDaniel. This form of delivery takes 36-40 hours and is the most efficient way of getting climate-controlled supplies to the ship in a timely and effective manner.
Approximately 38 hours later, Dr. McDaniel delivered the cooler to the hospital supply coordinator on the ship. The important medicine was then available for immediate use.
Life-changing surgeries are only successful when the appropriate pharmaceuticals are available to treat patients. The two key teams at Mercy Ships that make this happen are the Advance team and the International Procurement Department. Advance secures the proper authorization to import pharmaceuticals into West African countries, and the procurement team acquires the items and works out the logistics that make the delivery of the drugs a safe and efficient process.
Thanks to these groups, as well as loyal volunteers who are willing to serve as couriers, the forgotten poor of West Africa have access to vital medications that have the potential to save hundreds — even thousands — of lives.