La Verendrye donates equipment to China

FORT FRANCES—La Verendrye Hospital here is donating a large amount of medical equipment for use in a remote area of China through an outreach project co-organized by local lawyer Lawrence Eustace.
Marna Martin, a registered nurse in surgical services at La Verendrye, said she saw an article in the Times last September about the Pro Bono China Outreach Project that mentioned a donation of medical supplies from the local Oddfellows and Rebekah lodges.
“I thought, ‘Darn it, I wish I had known about that ahead of time,’” Martin said.
With the extensive renovations going on there, the hospital has been putting old equipment in its storage facilities as it is replaced with newer and more modern equipment.
The surgical services department has been preparing for the move to the new surgical facilities, expected to take place in late March.
“It was getting unbearably crowded in there,” Martin said of the storage area, adding other hospital departments also had equipment that was being replaced.
Martin said she decided to contact the group to see if they could use more equipment.
As it happened, Norm Becker, an engineer from Windsor, Ont. who is Eustace’s friend and co-organizer of the China project, was planning to be in Fort Frances in January, so they agreed to have a look at what items the hospital had in mind.
The pair met with Martin last Thursday. “They were quite impressed with everything we’ve collected,” she noted.
Among the items were two birthing beds, a surgical table, a ventilator, and two sets of operating room lights, which will be available after the move into the new operating rooms at La Verendrye.
Martin said the hospital also is donating some old instruments like scalpels and forceps, and that the physiology department had some wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches.
“They’re all still functional, but are being replaced by newer models,” she explained. “Some of these things would end up probably just going to the garbage.
“It will benefit us, too. It’ll give us some breathing room,” Martin added. “So it will be good for them and good for us.”
The equipment will be used in a clinic in a small, remote village in eastern China, about 600 km southeast of Beijing, where Eustace, Becker, and other members of the outreach team have been working for a couple of years.
The clinic serves a number of communities in the immediate area.
The team rebuilt the clinic last year after it had been damaged by fire. Local college student Mark Bujold spent six weeks there in the fall of 2003 helping in the reconstruction.
The medical equipment donated by the Oddfellows and Rebekahs was shipped over there this past fall—and was received with much gratitude by the local population.
Eustace and Becker are planning to return to China in March to begin the next phase of the project—a pre-cast concrete facility to build components for a water system.
In fact, Becker’s original plan when he first went to China in 2001 was to set up a model drinking water system for two remote villages to help alleviate some of the rampant sickness in the area.
Villagers get their drinking water from ditches—often contaminated with human and animal waste.
Becker said the goal is to use reservoirs to capture rain water and keep it in the villages for drinking and washing. This water also can be pumped out to the fields for irrigation.
The reservoirs will be fabricated at the pre-cast concrete facility the team plans to get up and running on their next visit.
“We need to produce 1,000 units, about one metre in length and one metre tall,” he explained, adding the water system will utilize slow sand filters similar to what the ancient Romans used.
The goal is not for the outreach team to build the units for the villagers, but to teach them how to make them themselves.
“We’ll need to do trial assemblies. Drawings won’t work, language won’t work. You have to show them,” Becker stressed. “Then they can work independently.”
Eventually, the system may be used in other rural communities in China where safe drinking water is scarce.