Exporting medical care to Cameroon on land and sea

| December 18, 2017 | 0 Comments
The Africa Mercy, a floating hospital, is docked in the coastal city of Douala, Cameroon, until June. (Photo: Mercy ships)

The Africa Mercy, a floating hospital, is docked in the coastal city of Douala, Cameroon, until June. (Photo: Mercy ships)

It was a historic day when Africa Mercy, a floating hospital, arrived in Cameroon for the first time in the organization’s history in August 2017. During the 10-month field service, the Africa Mercy will be docked in the coastal city of Douala and serve Cameroon through various surgical programs that support the mission of Mercy Ships. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships provides hope and healing by using volunteer-driven hospital ships to provide free surgical care, medical training and capacity building to impoverished nations, primarily in West Africa.
Mercy Ships Canada also funded a hospital outpatient extension, known as the HOPE centre, a now-completed $1.3-million facility built on land close to the vessel, to be used as a temporary residence for caregivers and patients who undergo surgery on board.
The ship itself is a 152-metre vessel equipped with five state-of-the-art operating rooms and is a fully modern hospital specializing in maxillofacial, reconstructive, plastics, orthopedic, ophthalmic, dental and obstetric fistula surgeries. Once discharged from the ship’s hospital, patients and their caregivers who live outside of Douala stay at the non-floating building known as the HOPE Centre as they continue to recover and receive followup care. For these patients, the centre provides a safe, secure and hygienic facility where patients can reside until they are able to return to their homes. Should any complications arise, the close proximity to the Africa Mercy ensures patients are treated quickly and efficiently. Importantly, the HOPE Centre also frees up precious bed space in the hospital wards on the ship and allows foe better optimization of the ship’s surgical capacity.
The ship is like a small town, and an international crew of more than 400 volunteers make up that community. Volunteers come from a range of professions — and from more than 40 nations. Some offer specialist medical, dental and nursing skills, while others have maritime and maintenance expertise that is essential to running the Africa Mercy.
During the Africa Mercy’s stay in Douala, Mercy Ships plans to provide as many as 4,100 life-changing surgeries for adult and child patients, to treat more than 8,000 at a land-based dental clinic, and to provide holistic health care training to Cameroonian professionals. Once the Africa Mercy departs, the renovated HOPE Centre building will be turned over to the ministry of health for its use as a health care facility. It will expand the capacity of medical services offered at the Nylon District Hospital and in the surrounding district. The expanded services will include hospital in-patient rooms and additional ward and laboratory space, plus consulting rooms for ophthalmology, orthodontics and dentistry and surgical specialties.
The life-changing work of Mercy Ships would not be possible without the support of Canadian donors and volunteers. A fundraiser hosted in Ottawa by Cameroon High Commissioner Anu’a-Gheyle Solomon Azoh-Mbi and board chairwoman of Mercy Ships Canada, Marilyn Collette, raised $12,500 for 50 hospital beds in the HOPE Centre, and $12,300 for additional projects. To learn more about Mercy Ships, visit www.mercyships.ca.

JoJo Beattie is the public relations and communications co-ordinator for Mercy Ships Canada.

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JoJo Beattie is the public relations and communications co-ordinator for Mercy Ships Canada.

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