Thursday, August 04, 2005

IMEC: Five (No So) Easy Pieces

International Medical Equipment Collaborative is a non-profit organization established by IMEC's President, Thomas Keefe in 1995 to distribute medical equipment, supplies and support services to doctors, nurses and clinicians working in clinics and orphanages in impoverished, underserved locations worldwide.

Back in 1995, Tom had twenty years of senior management experience in hospitals, and of course, this gave him intimate knowledge about the field. At that same time, hospitals in the U.S. were "closing, downsizing and eliminating entire services."

Tom believed that "people, given the right vehicle, will step forward to help those in need." Health service facilities in underserved areas had the need, and health service facilities in the U.S. were encouraged to "step forward."

It took some research and contacting people who were familiar with the international issues relating to the vision. But it soon became clear to Tom that there was a vast overseas demand for "retired" medical surplus that could be retrieved and put it back into service around the world.

By providing doctors and nurses with the medical tools to improve the delivery of vital health services, IMEC creates health facilities in the poorest countries around the world.

Since 1995, IMEC has grown to a very large network of individuals with backgrounds in either healthcare or international cooperation. This includes: "doctors, nurses, medical technicians and others who assist in acquisition, testing, reconditioning and training." Sixty countries have received equipment and supplies from IMEC. In addition to their projects in Africa, they serve people in Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the former Soviet Republics.

Not only does IMEC answer a great need for medical equipment and supplies in underserved countries, but it also "builds relationships between countries and professionals in the healthcare field internationally."

Being headquartered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, IMEC could be considered a New England based operation. And the inhabitants of New England are known in the U.S. for their sense of simplicity. This also seems to be the case with way IMEC conducts its business. They keep it effective by keeping it simple.

By "simple" I mean that they have a "Five-Step Process" that takes their projects From Start To Finish.

Working with equipment donors, volunteers, project sponsors (whom they call "shepherds") and caregivers, IMEC carries out its missions as they describe in the following manner:

"STEP 1: Identification
A project is identified through a shepherding group interested in sponsoring a shipment to an impoverished hospital or clinic. (these "shepard groups" are humanitarian organizations, governments, service organization, church group and others willing to support a project over a three - five year period.)

"STEP 2: Assessment
An IMEC assessment team visits the project facility. The team works with doctors and nurses in the hospital to develop an understanding of needs. This provides IMEC with the necessary information to insure that only appropriate medical tools are sent to the receiving hospital or clinic.

"STEP 3: Fulfillment
IMEC matches each project's needs assessment with available medical equipment and Global Service Partners prepare the equipment and supplies for shipment.

"STEP 4: Delivery
All items are packaged and loaded into sea containers for shipment, and delivered directly to the receiving facility.

"STEP 5: Installation
A volunteer project team travels to the in-country facility to be sure all equipment arrives and to assist in installation and maintenaance training."

One example of the work that IMEC has done is the help that it provided to Cooper Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Monrovia had been devastated by the civil war and Cooper Memorial Hospital was left virtually empty after the looting that took place in 1997. The situation was so desperate that patients had to sleep on "beds" made of hay placed on the cement floor. Soon thereafter, IMEC's first shipment of equipment arrived. This shipment contained "beds, exam tables, lab equipment, bassinets, cribs, centrifuges, EKG machines, x-ray equipment, medical supplies, wheelchairs, crutches, and much more."

Since that time, IMEC has shipped a second container to Cooper Memorial Hospital, but the project is still ongoing.

This work is able to be carried out by IMEC because of its dedicated volunteers. They utilize individuals who act as:

Project Coordinators
Furniture Repairpersons
Electronics Repairpersons
Donation Pickup Drivers
Donation Pickup Assistants
Equipment Cleaners
Equipment Packers
Equipment Repairpersons
Linen Repairpersons
Medical Supplies Packers
Office Assistants
Workshop Donations Organizers

IMEC is a lot of people working hard with a simple plan that has five pieces that are not that easy, but certain get results.

I strongly recommend visiting their web site, particularly if you are concerned in any way with providing better health care to the underserved. Perhaps you can help IMAC and perhaps IMAC can help you. You can find them at:

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