A shipment of medicine and supplies are in Cuba, ready to be used by medical staff at a children’s hospital in Havana. An HHI team just returned from there, seeing the supplies in-country and visiting the hospital where the items will be used to help treat sick children.
After months of coordination with government agencies in Cuba and the U.S. and some very exhaustive and meticulous work, a 40-foot container loaded with six tons of medical supplies and children’s items departed from HHI’s Operations Hub in October 2015 bound for a children’s hospital in Havana, Cuba.
After a couple of weeks in transit and a few more weeks working through the customs process, the supplies were brought to a warehouse in Havana, to await delivery to the William Soler Pediatric Hospital.
During the first week of December 2015, a team from HHI traveled to Havana, Cuba to ensure the product had arrived in good condition and to learn more about the on-the-ground logistics needed to handle this and future shipments.
The medicine and the supplies in this shipment were valued at nearly $350,000. All of it provided by some of HHI’s corporate sponsors BD, Midmark, AbbVie, Medtronic, Welch Allyn, Henry Schein and Johnson & Johnson. Beyond medicine and medical equipment, this first container-load delivered diapers, coloring books and crayons, and child-sized blankets. Everything in this first delivery were items requested and needed by medical staff at the pediatric hospital.
Dr. Aldo Grandal Sosa oversees medical donations for the Department of International Relations in Cuba’s public health system. He’s worked closely with HHI staff to ensure this first shipment went off without a hitch and contained the items desired by medical personnel to treat children.
Dr. Grandal Sosa says this new relationship with HHI “creates a great interchange between partners and creates opportunities for future donations, which is very important for our public health system.”
In Cuba, the William Soler Pediatric Hospital is the top medical facility for ill children not just in Havana but across the island. It’s also a teaching hospital, providing education and training for medical personnel. And according to the hospital’s chief of operations Dr. Mercedes Milan Jo, it’s a very busy place.
During the trip, the HHI team visited the hospital to meet with staff to discuss the shipment, further needs and to see where the medicine and supplies would be put to use. Dr. Milan Jo reported the hospital is on pace this year to perform a record number of surgeries since the founding of the hospital 55 years ago. The donation of supplies by HHI, especially items like surgical gloves, she said, will help reduce a long waiting list for surgeries.
This HHI shipment is not a one and done, rather it’s just the first under a two-year long arrangement. A second and third shipment are already in the works, which is welcome news for parents whose children need regular medical care at Soler.
Two or three times a month, Otoniel Fernandez’ son receives treatment at William Soler because he has sickle cell anemia. “We know we have very good doctors and nurses, but we need supplies,” Fernandez said. “It is very important that Heart to Heart come to Cuba and bring supplies for the hospital.”
These first supplies and those that follow will help to expand access to healthcare in Cuba and help children receive even better care.