Health

Medical Bridges expedites health care supplies to hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The Houston nonprofit is shipping donations from several TMC institutions


By Britni R. McAshan | September 26, 2019

In the month since Hurricane Dorian made a catastrophic landfall in the Bahamas, the island nation has been in desperate need of medical supplies.

Hurricane Dorian—a Category 5 storm—hit hardest on Grand Bahama and Great Abaco, two of the 30 inhabited islands of the Bahamas. Nearly half of the homes on Grand Bahama were destroyed and more than 70,000 people in the commonwealth were left homeless.

Medical Bridges, a Houston nonprofit started in 1997 by Patricia Brock, M.D., and Margaret Goetz, M.D., is preparing to send three 40-foot shipping containers filled with medical supplies to the Bahamas.

“There are still parts of the Bahamas that are desolated and decimated and the ability to get medical equipment not only will enable the people to get medical treatment and get back on their feet, but the medical equipment will save lives,” said Walter Ulrich, president and CEO of Medical Bridges.

Medical Bridges operates as a medical supply recycling program in which unused or unwanted medical equipment and supplies from major health care facilities are sent to qualified health care providers and clinics around the world without access to the items.

The nonprofit estimates that the medical community in the United States generates nearly $9 billion in surplus product every year simply because the materials have been opened but never used, are outdated by U.S. standards or are replaced by newer technology.

The shipment heading to the Bahamas contains everything from gloves and surgical masks to hospital beds and dental suites. Contributions came from MD Anderson, Houston Methodist, Memorial Hermann, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s and Texas Woman’s Hospital, Ulrich said.

As soon as Dorian passed, Medical Bridges officials inquired with the commonwealth’s acting chief medical officer about needed health care items.

“He sent us an eight-page list of supplies they needed,” Ulrich said. “We began putting it together by partnering with individuals and an NGO and we put together the three containers.”

Crisis shipments contrast with usual donations. Typically, Medical Bridges receives a wish list and takes two weeks to one month to fill an order.

“We wanted to start communicating with them as soon as we could because they need everything right now,” said Heidi Alvarez, director of operations. “We want to make sure we can get them everything they need in enough time to help them when they really need it.”

The shipments are expected to leave this week and next week with an estimated delivery date in mid-October.

Two of the shipments are being sponsored by Carl Stutts in memory of his wife, Tessa Lesley, who passed away last week, as well as in honor of Rodrigo Mejia, M.D., a pediatric critical care director at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and his wife, Luz Mejia. The third container was made possible by Helping Hand for Relief and Development.

“This is a very visible way for Houston and the Texas Medical Center to make a difference in the Bahamas and it is greatly appreciated by the people of the Bahamas and the acting chief medical officer of the Bahamas,” Ulrich said.




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