Dr. Ghee Hwang is grateful for all the donations of medical equipment and supplies and he makes sure that everything goes where it can best be used.
“Every place is different with a different degree of development and training for medical staff,” said the Vernon surgeon, who collects donations for hospitals around the world.
“In Uganda, they are at the level of maybe 30 to 40 years behind what we are doing here. In Guyana, they are maybe 10 years behind and all they need is a bit of technical assistance, while in the Philippines, there is advanced nursing and medical training and know how to use modern technology but they can’t afford it.”
He thinks carefully about where to send each piece of equipment, for example, sending the less high-tech equipment that can be more easily fixed to places where there is less service.
“Everything we send is still fully functional, it is not just the latest technology here,” said Hwang, who also volunteers to teach surgical skills.
“I would rather teach than just do surgery and leave, it’s more sustainable.”
He also sees a need for more training for nurses and has taken local nurses with him to help other nurses upgrade their skills. He said that it can happen that surgery is done correctly but is not successful because the medical staff cannot practise effective preparation for surgery, like sterilizing instruments, and care after surgery. Next year he will be going to Uganda with a team of nurses to teach how to set up an operating room.
He will be going to Guyana in September with a dietitian to help nurses learn how to use proper nutrition and intravenous feeding to help patients heal from surgery.
“We are developing courses to teach and the medical staff members there are happy to learn,” he said.
Hwang has been collecting donations of medical equipment and supplies for the past four years and has everything neatly ready in a unit donated by Secure Self Storage. Even things as basic as over-the-counter painkillers, vitamins, bandages and stainless steel bowls and jugs are needs. He also collects supplies like sutures and cauterization equipment, with many donations from medical supply companies in the area.
“What we have here is also for the community. If someone is going to do volunteer work and can take supplies, we welcome them to take what they need,” he said. “Now we need to raise more money so we can send more things. We are working in affiliation with CNIS, Canadian Network for International Surgery.”
The fundraiser Apwoyo (a greeting) Gulu, for St. Mary’s Hospital, a 470-bed hospital in Lacor, Gulu, Uganda, takes place Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Schubert Centre. There will be a dinner (no-host bar), slide show, silent auction and entertainment by John Cullen at the keyboard and Bollywood dancing and music by the Vernon Punjabi Heritage Society.
For tickets, $25 each, to make a donation to the silent auction, or for more information, call Ronda Furlan at 250-549-2898 or Teresa Hwang at 250-549-1356.