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Ottawan donates $200,000 in equipment to African hospital

By Mohammed Adam, Ottawa Citizen
August 11, 2009

OTTAWA — Thousands of lives in rural northern Tanzania could be saved because Ottawa philanthropist Dave Smith has donated thousands of dollars worth of vital medical equipment to a hospital in the East African country.

The supplies, including $150,000 in new anesthetic equipment, will allow doctors at the Kolando Hospital, about 800 kilometres from the capital Dar es Salaam, to perform life-saving surgery. The gifts total $200,000, and also include 21 hospital beds, 325 medical and surgical instruments, 28 wheelchairs, two defibrillators, as well as nursing books and clothing.

Smith, who has for years been donating medical equipment and supplies to hospitals in Africa, said it was the least he could do after hearing of the plight of the doctors and patients at the Tanzanian hospital.

“It is to give people there a chance on life,” he said.

Ottawa dentist Sam Kwofie, who was involved in the appeal that led to Smith’s donation, said it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We are very grateful to Dave for the life-saving anesthetic equipment. There’s no question this will save thousands of lives,” he said.

It all began on a visit to Tanzania last year, when Kwofie and his wife Liliane, who was born at Kolando, visited the hospital.

They were struck by the dilapidated conditions at the 96-year-old mission hospital, particularly its operating room.

The only anesthetic machine at the hospital, which serves about 600,000 people, broke down repeatedly during surgery, leaving doctors no way to monitor vital signs, except through their instinct and experience.

The alternative was to cancel surgeries, which would basically be a death warrant for many patients.

The doctors begged for help, and on their return to Canada, Kwofie and Liliane, chair of the Ottawa African Fellowship Group, launched a fundraising drive for the hospital. They needed to get anesthetic equipment for the operating room and beds for the children’s malaria wing. To their surprise and relief, Smith came to the rescue.

He donated all the equipment and the African Fellowship raised $11,000 to cover shipping expenses. About $600 was handed to the hospital to refurbish the operating room floor.

Smith said when he heard of the plight of the hospital in Tanzania, it reminded him of a trip he took three years ago to rural Angola, where the terrible state of the hospitals devastated him.

Since then he has been collecting medical equipment for hospitals in Africa, and has so far shipped 31 containers of supplies to various African countries. It was a no-brainer, he said, to donate the equipment, which was delivered to the Tanzanian hospital last month.

“Dave is an amazing man and what he did for us was overwhelming,” Liliane Kwofie said. “This is a mission hospital and when we told them of the equipment, they said God has opened the door for them. This is something they never dreamed they will get for the hospital. It was so exciting.”

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