As Amanda Paniagia, MedShare’s Shipments Manager, and I (Josh Kravitz – MedShare’s Programs Director) speed down the runway at Atlanta’s airport, we are excited to visit a place that lays deep in the heart of MedShare. Ecuador.
MedShare has a special relationship with this country that has added immeasurably to the world’s understanding of biology and geography. However – much like its many buildings with half built second stories- Ecuador is a country that has a strong foundation, but needs help in its journey toward the sky. In 2001, MedShare as a one-year-old organization shipped its first container of medical aid to Ecuador. In the next nine years, we followed this first shipment with over 30 additional containers and equipped countless medical teams.
The purpose of this trip, made possible by airline miles, is to visit with our many past and potential hospitals to learn how MedShare can serve them better. With the invaluable help of our on-the-ground person, Marco Galarza, Amanda and I have started our efforts to meet with and learn from our partners in Ecuador. The first stop was unexpectedly emotional as for the first time in my almost five years with MedShare, I walked into a hospital abroad to find beds donated from a U.S. hospitals to MedShare sitting in a patient ward. As I stand there struck by this moment, I can only think how these beds made such an incredible trip from the U.S., through our inspection system and are now are physical proof that we have fulfilled a community’s need.
Today, we had an incredible opportunity to visit a small hospital in Pedro Vicente Maldonada in Esmeraldas Province. The very caring staff of the town’s hospital generously took time to tour us around the facility showing us the many successes they face under extraordinary conditions. At one point, we walked in on a radiologist squinting to see a small grainy picture on an outdated portable ultrasound. New versions of this machine are used by the U.S. military for emergency field evaluations. This hospital, however, used it for its everyday diagnoses. We would find out later the hospital does have a full size machine, but no software to run it.
As we continued to tour the hospital and talk with the Chief Doctor, I felt very angry hearing him explain that many of the product donations received from other donors are unusable because they were never requested and not needed. The Doctor showed us to a store room filled with items that will only serve to take up space because the hospital has no need for the items or they arrived in a condition unacceptable for their level of care. I found comfort in the Doctor’s excitement to use MedShare’s ordering system so our FULL container of supplies and equipment can be utilized. Toward the end of the tour, the Doctor said he hoped he proved to us that the hospital would be a responsible recipient. I could not help but wish MedShare would be a responsible donor for an institution that clearly takes great pains to give people who would otherwise go without medical care for lack of funds a quality and respectful experience.
Tomorrow we will visit facilities in the cities of Esmeraldas and Quninde. We are excited to learn how MedShare can better serve the people of Ecuador living in these cities. However, what I take away from today is that it is not good enough to care and give. We must always give in ways that match our hospitals’ needs to our donations.