John Morris came to Dr. Prem Reddy with a surprising request recently: Would the founder of Prime Healthcare Services donate medical equipment to help a hospital in Africa?
A nurse at Desert Valley Hospital, Morris has been doing work as a missionary and a volunteer in West Africa over the past twenty years - he spent ten years living there and establishing a nursing school, an ICU program, and an orphanage. He returns a few times a year, bringing medical supplies and health care to rural villages throughout West Africa, in countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cameroon.
Dr. Reddy and his family, through the non-profit Dr. Prem Reddy Family Foundation, have given hundreds of millions of dollars to educational scholarships, charities and free clinics, so his response to Morris's request was unsurprising. He told his executive team to give Morris everything possible.
"If it can be used to help someone to heal, there is no greater cause," said Dr. Reddy.
Prime Healthcare partnered with an organization that has expertise in delivering medical equipment to facilities in need throughout the world – the World Medical Mission of Samaritan's Purse International Relief. Representatives at Samaritan's Purse said the value of the equipment could be up to $1 million. In addition, the Dr. Prem Reddy Family Foundation will cover the cost to ship the equipment to the World Medical Mission (WMM) headquarters and staging ground in North Carolina.
"What Dr. Reddy has offered to do is head and shoulders above what most hospitals do," said Jim Moore, a representative from the WMM who assessed and chose what equipment they could use.
Last week, a small row of usually quiet warehouses in Victorville saw a lot of activity as they were being cleared out, with more than seven truckloads of medical equipment sorted and packed to begin a journey to Africa.
The warehouses, owned by Prime Healthcare Services, had been storing quality medical equipment that had been replaced by newer equipment.
"You walk down the streets [in Africa], and they're lined with people behind wheelbarrows, and that's their life's assets, they're selling anything, everything – sandals, flashlight batteries – and it's as far as you can see," Moore said. "The people have very little. When it comes to medical supplies, "They need anything they can get – they have nothing."
The first pick of equipment has been earmarked for the hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, where Morris will go to continue his volunteer work. The hospital has been decimated since a civil war and only regained 24-hour electricity five years ago, a major accomplishment in the area, by running on diesel generators.
"We're working in undeveloped areas of underdeveloped countries," said Moore.
The remainder of the equipment will go to facilities throughout the world, as needs are matched with available equipment. The three warehouses of equipment came from fourteen hospitals in California owned by Prime Healthcare and the non-profit Prime Healthcare Foundation. As new equipment was purchased the slightly outdated models were sometimes sold, and sometimes simply sent to storage.
"Every dollar we don't spend on equipment because of donations we can spend on the patients," said Bob Blees, who helps to coordinate the needs of these remote hospitals.
Now that the partnership between Prime Healthcare and Samaritan's Purse has begun, newly "retired" equipment can make it's way to hospitals in need even faster. As Prime continues to expand to other states and in each instance they invest in significant capital improvements to the medical equipment.
"When we acquire these hospitals, these are financially distressed, failing hospitals; they have outdated equipment," said Dr. Reddy. "We put in all new equipment there and then all this equipment that was there goes to warehouse. Now we have a pipeline sending this to these organizations that could use this equipment."