On the 17th June a group of staff from Dormac were given the opportunity to go on a tour of the MV Africa Mercy, the world’s largest non-governmental floating hospital. The ship arrived in Port of Durban on the 15th June to berth on Dormac’s repair quay for dry docking and general maintenance over a two month port stay.
This 152m hospital ship, belonging to the humanitarian organization Mercy Ships, was acquired in 1999 through a donation from the Balcraig Foundation. Formally a Danish rail ferry it was adapted specifically for Mercy Ships missions and renamed Africa Mercy in 2000.
Mercy Ships are intent on bringing first world healing to the developing world. Many of the conditions they treat are directly correlated by levels of poverty and the people who require these treatments and life changing surgeries have neither the physical nor financial accessibility to the healthcare they require.
The hospital has five operating theatres with an on board surgical capacity of approximately 7000 interventions per year. It has recovery, intensive care and low dependency wards totalling 78 patient beds.
In addition to the surgeries performed on board, ship based teams also go into local villages to provide basic healthcare services such as dental services, community health education and medical clinics.
Dormac’s team were given an extensive tour of the ship and got a sense of life on board over and above the hospital and wards. They were pleased to see a section of an upper deck that was a children’s play area with swings, slides and other playground toys where children could have some fun and also where patients would come for a walk and some fresh air during recovery. The volunteers area for socialising is at the Starbucks café. Starbucks subsidise coffee and café snacks for the volunteers of Mercy Ships charging only a small fee for items which just covers their costs of shipping the consumables to wherever the ship is based. As the ship had just recently arrived and would not be operating as a hospital in Port of Durban all the medical equipment was securely stowed away from the journey so we were unable to see the hospital in action.
It is very humbling to consider the magnitude of the work that is done on this ship and all done by volunteers who have made big sacrifices in their own lives to enable them to work on Africa Mercy. Since its inception in 2007 there have been more than 3400 crew from 72 different countries serve on board. The vision of the crew of Africa Mercy – To bring hope and healing to the poor!