South Georgia workers assess needs at hospitals in South America - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia workers assess needs at hospitals in South America

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July 29, 20003

Montevideo, Uruguay-  The calm and quiet of a 220-year old chapel in the center of the capital of Uruguay is broken when you duck through a narrow passageway and into a connected hospital that's also been serving people in Montevideo for more than two centuries. Hospital Maciel is filled patients and with outdated equipment. "These are 50-year old beds here," said ICU Director Dr. Homero Bagnulo as he pointed to a row of aging beds in one of the many wards in this sprawling hospital. "We manage to make it work."

"Make do with what you have. I understand," said Bill Lane, Director of the Defense Department's Humanitarian Assistance Program. Lane and Supply Analyst Jay Graves from the HAP warehouse in south Georgia are in South America assessing the needs of hospitals here.

"They have plenty of doctors. They have plenty of personnel. Their gap is the equipment," said Graves. Dr. Bagnulo proved that by showing off a pump that helps patients breathe. It's 50 years old. It still works. It's still in use. One reason, it's been repaired with two old coffee jars.

The American team toured hospitals throughout Uruguay talking directly with doctors about their needs. "What we need is what they need," Graves told one hospital director through an interpreter. If the Defense Department approves another humanitarian shipment to Uruguay for next year, they'll be ready. "It makes it easier for us to get the right equipment into the countries," said Lane.

It doesn't always work this way. Sometimes a government will work with U-S military officials in their country, and they'll send a request list to the Georgia warehouse. "When I'm looking on the internet from our customers seeing the projects out there, it's hard to quantify what they want because they're not as specific," said Graves.

The director of a hospital in the town of Los Piedras said his on-site tour was extremely helpful. "It's the only way to get information about the needs of the hospital," said Dr. Carlos Strozzi.

As the tours continued, several other hospitals in Uruguay unloaded supplies. They got just what they needed because of a site assessment in January. "Because I was down here earlier on our last trip, I knew the hospitals needed portable x-ray units, so I put them in every shipment," said Graves.

And knowing he's helping patients here, makes his job even more meaningful. "The reason I got into this is because I want to help people." He's helping people get the health care they need, helping answer prayers in hospitals half a world away.

posted at 5:00 p.m. by ben.roberts@walb.com