The Indianapolis Star, 14 January 2004.
Hospital's surplus gear to help Serbia rebuild
Phone call from a volunteer stirred Riverview's donation
By James A. Gillaspy
For Beth Ann Ross and Ambassadors for Children, the volunteer spirit paid off big time when a call to Riverview Hospital brought a windfall gift of medical equipment for war-torn Serbians.
"It just brings tears to my eyes how nice people are," said Ross, an Ambassadors volunteer whose solicitation led to the gift announced this week by hospital officials. "I was maybe expecting like a hospital bed."
Instead, the hospital donated an array of surplus equipment that was rendered unnecessary by the recent opening of Riverview's Women's Pavilion. If the equipment were bought new, officials estimate, it would cost about $1 million.
"This is just amazing," said Beth Schnepf, executive director of Ambassadors, a service arm of the Ambassadair Travel Club. No past gift to the six-year-old organization has even approached the size of Riverview's bequest.
"Probably the highest value of any single piece of equipment was about $90,000 -- nothing of this magnitude," Schnepf said.
The Riverview gift includes hospital cribs, defibrillators, an operating table, electrocardiogram and electroencephalogram units, a fetal monitoring system, an electric scalpel, eye surgery equipment and operating room lights, among other pieces of equipment.
Schnepf said Serbian doctors will select what they most need, and the rest will be sent to other needy areas. Shipments to Serbia and Montenegro will be coordinated by Yugoslav Princess Katherine's Lifeline Humanitarian Organization in New York.
Wheaton Van Lines, another area donor responding to Ross, will transport the equipment to Lifeline within the next two weeks, said Wheaton Vice President David L. Witzerman.
The impetus for the Riverview gift came from a telephone call placed by Ross, a new member of the Ambassadors board, to the hospital.
"It all started when Beth Ann Ross asked the question, 'So, what do you do with all your old equipment?' " Schnepf said.
Brian E. Dietz, Riverview's new president and chief executive officer, said the past practice, like that of various hospitals where he's worked, is a common one.
"Usually it goes in the Dumpster," said Dietz. "It's nice to see it go to a foreign country, where they're miles behind us technologically."
Clinical engineering director Andy Rauworth, whose job it is to maintain and upgrade medical equipment at the county-owned hospital, agreed that once trade-in possibilities and cream-of-the-crop purchases by third-party dealers have been exhausted, stored leftovers have little value.
"When Beth Ann called, I realized we could help our storage problems as well as help people throughout the world," he said.
Scott Leurquin, a Lifeline representative, said the equipment would help with rebuilding in the aftermath of conflict between warring factions that tore apart the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s.
"The need could not be greater," said Leurquin. "The situation is desperate. They really need a hand up, and that's what this is."
Ross had sought the hospital's help after Princess Katherine and Prince Alexander II came to Indianapolis last August as part of a U.S. tour for aid. Ambassadors founder Sally Brown, president of Ambassadair Travel Club, followed up with an ATA-sponsored trip to the country.
"We went through hospital after hospital and saw conditions that go back to the 1950s in the United States," said Brown. It was then that Ross contacted Riverview on the chance it could help.
Brown said the result should generate future calls and relations with other hospitals, which Dietz said have been largely unaware of any organization that could coordinate a beneficial transfer of such obsolete technology.
He said Ambassadors for Children has made him a believer, and he sees this donation as the first of many to come.
"As long as we can do this, yes," said Dietz.
Copyright © 1998 NJ.K.V. Prestolonaslednik Aleksandar II
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