Watching a television documentary show about “hospital ships” taking medical and dental implant charity to underdeveloped countries makes the heart glow warmly with goodwill and charity. Some doctors and nurses have been on this particular ship for as long as eight years. And still, they cannot get enough of the wonders they perform all over the world. Mostly on African soil, they find the most horrific of medical challenges.
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The ship in question is “Africa Mercy” a ship that was converted from a flat-bottomed train ferry in the northern seas, carrying trains from one Scandinavian country to the other. There was no longer a need for these trains to be shipped, so the ship was converted into a hospital ship. Needless to say that the conversion of an old ship is a hazardous undertaking, as you are working with old engine rooms and old galleys, as well as an old hull. The hull had to be changed so that it would no longer be flat-bottomed, but would be able to sail in deep and stormy seas. The new equipment in the form of hospital beds, operating theaters, and medication stores will not suddenly transform this old lady into a bright new thing. However, the people manning and working on this ship is passionate about what they do. People volunteering to leave their support network behind to go to sea, already a daunting new experience for some, and then stay away from home for long periods of time.
The Africa Mercy, newly converted can travel from port to port in the world’s poorest parts delivering medical care to individuals who might have never met a doctor or ever been to a hospital. She is 150m long and is equipped with six state-of-the-art operating theatres. Africa Mercy can deliver medical care as first-class as any big city hospital in North America.
Before the trip, careful planning takes place as to the supplies that have to be taken on board. Every little thing gets planned, from how many rolls of toilet paper, to how much oxygen and medical supplies.
This is no small endeavor.
The ship has 78 hospital beds and an average crew of 450. There are family cabins which cater for volunteers wanting to take their whole family with, with teachers on board, keeping the children’s education up to date.
The hospital is sectioned into four parts: stock services, six surgical theatres, an intensive care unit room, as well as low-dependency rooms/words. It`s expected to do more than 7000 operations this year. They can do just about anything from lens implant, removal of tumors, orthopedics, palate reconstruction and babies delivery. The hospital is equipped with all sorts of medical Imaging/Radiography and reliable laboratories for efficient diagnosis of various diseases. Satellite communication technique is used to transmit these diagnoses, along with all other data and telephone calls.
The Africa Mercy is fitted with advanced safety and security features. Along with the closed circuit televisions, metal detectors, and other technology, there are security guards that man the gangway 24 hours per day.