Earlier this year, to the delight of our patients, we upgraded many of our beds (perhaps “delight” is a strong word for someone recuperating in hospital, but you get the gist). That meant around 150 still-good hospital beds from Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Toronto General Hospital needed a new home.

State-of-the-art new beds waiting to be delivered to the unit. -Image Credit Tracy Noftall.
Lovely, state-of-the-art new beds awaiting delivery to the unit. -Image credit Tracey Noftall.

As you know, re-use is even better than recycling, and infinitely better than piling on Ye Olde Landfille. We can bring it up a notch or 3 by ensuring a community in need gets it. A quick peek around the world shows lots of those (sadly), especially in places like Liberia, Africa. Though Liberia’s doing much better with Ebola now, back in May 2015  there were as many as 10,666 known and suspected cases according to WHO.

Liberia constantly deals with Malaria, TB, HIV, 85% poverty and the aftermath of civil wars. Many of their hospitals did not have enough beds or the beds they had didn’t have railings … key to keeping very sick patients from accidentally rolling out of them while trying to get well (adding insult to injury and vice versa).

So the idea was lovely and teeming with rainbow-breathing unicorns, but needed solid logistics to make it happen: when the new beds arrived, the existing beds had to be moved out of UHN, stored, shipped, and transported to their final destination. Don’t forget the patients that had to be transferred from 1 bed to another. Talk about muscle, motivation, moxie and means.

Stacks of beds in the warehouse
Stacks of beds in the warehouse

A lot of coordination took place, including Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation (KBNF), a registered charity in BC that provides medical support for the people of West Africa. KBNF worked with their shipping partners, Compassionate Resource Warehouse (Victoria) & Crossroads Communications (Burlington), to warehouse the beds before departure. All 150 UHN beds got a new lease on life in West Africa.

volunteers in Burlington loaded beds into first shipping container
Heavy lifting with love: volunteers in Burlington loaded beds into first shipping container

Marj Ratel, KBNF President, gave us an update in April:

“I received an enthusiastic call from Drs. Francis Kateh and Ben Kolee. They were in the process of unloading KBNF container #3 and couldn’t be more pleased. These fellas have been fighting a war, without relief, and our containers are arriving and literally bringing them “love in a can”! … the impact is transformative.”

Dr. Ben Kolee, Chief Medical Officer at Jackson F. Doe Hospital in Tappita, Liberia, noted:

“Even the clothes that came in as “load stabilizers” were given to discharged patients whose clothes got burnt because they were thought to be infectious at admission … To date we are the only Hospital in Liberia that never shut down while at the same time maintaining zero infection among all level of workers at the Hospital. We will forever remain grateful.”

The final destination ... this is what its all about. Image credit Korle-Bu newsletter
The final destination … this is what its all about. Image credit Korle-Bu newsletter

It’s times like these that the big, bad world shrinks down to one very close and caring village. How’s that for a good bed-time story?

Even more ideas on what you can do…

Work at UHN and have extra medical supplies you can’t use?

Heading on a trip somewhere interesting and want to bring a suitcase of medical supplies? Or have a spare suitcase that can contain those supplies?