Forty-foot shipping containers, containing crucial medical supplies to help doctors and nurses, are on their way to Fiji, Liberia, Ghana, Pakistan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Bolivia, Uganda, Tanzania, Jamaica and Ethiopia, thanks to Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach. Founded in 2002 by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in Springfield — Mission Outreach packages and delivers medical supplies and equipment around the world, mostly to poorer countries. Since the pandemic broke out, activity has increased dramatically.
“The COVID-19 pandemic represents the ‘perfect storm’ for the medical supply chain — particularly for PPE (personal protective equipment),” said Georgia Winson, president and executive director of Mission Outreach. “Demand, at an all-time high with more than 210 countries and territories combatting the virus, far exceeds the supply which has been slowed by difficulty in receiving product from international manufacturing plants.”
Just how high has demand reached? Typically, medical supplies shipped to international partners average 44,000 pounds a month. The addition of local partners in the Springfield area and other regions of the globe in need of PPE increased their monthly total by 30,000 pounds a month since the COVID crisis began.
“We should not diminish the very real danger, anxiety, and frustration felt by U.S. healthcare providers facing COVID-19 without the appropriate equipment to pre- vent infection and treat deadly disease,” Winson said. “However, what we are experiencing as abnormal is the daily reality in places like Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Haiti. The fragile nature of healthcare in low-income countries, including the medical supply chain, is a major contributor to low life expectancy and unnecessary death from infectious disease, childbirth, and trauma. Each year, Mission Outreach sends approximately $6 million in medical supplies and equipment to hospitals in low income countries. We convey our love and respect in tangible ways, personal service, and new packaging.”
Mission Outreach, an affiliate of HSHS, receives surplus medical supplies from more than 100 hospital partners in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. Back at their warehouse in Springfield, volunteers sort the items (not now, however, due to the pandemic). From there, they are packaged and sent around the world to those in need — filling an important gap globally and now locally because of the pandemic.
“I can’t tell you how important it was to get the personal protective equipment from Mission Outreach,” said Dr. Kenneth Sagins, chief medical officer of Springfield Clinic. “Mission Outreach came through for Springfield Clinic and for the entire medical community in Springfield. A safe environment is critical for patients and staff. Mission Outreach donations created that safety. Our patients are so appreciative that we have been open and ready to serve during this time.”
“Mission Outreach has provided us with supplies, PPE, and masks, as well as facilitated community supply drives to help protect our medical district during this time,” said Allison Paul, chief nursing officer at HSHS St. John’s Hospital and HSHS Illinois chief nursing executive. “Mission Outreach typically focuses their efforts internationally, shipping medical supplies to healthcare workers and patients around the world. We are so blessed they are also focusing efforts locally to help protect healthcare workers and patients in our community.”
While the battle against the virus continues, Mission Outreach is also planning for the future, working with national and international partners such as the Taskforce for Global Health, Catholic Health Association, and Medline Industries to develop innovative ideas for a post-COVID-19 medical supply chain.
“God willing, Mission Outreach will open to volunteers in June,” Winson said. “We are planning for small working groups, lots of space between workers, regularly disinfected workspaces, masks, joy, and rewarding work!”
Mission Outreach is also accepting donations of homemade masks. Those can be placed in the barrel by their front door at 4930 LaVerna Road in Springfield.