Hospitals for Hope converts shipping containers into clinics

01/26/2010 12:00 AM

08/04/2014 8:43 PM

Michael Wawrzewski unlatches the back of a 40-foot shipping container that he hopes will arrive in Haiti in a few weeks as a fully equipped medical clinic.

The metal box doesn't look like much now. But by the time volunteers are done, Wawrzewski says, "it will look like you're walking into your doctor's office."

Wawrzewski is the founder and CEO of Hospitals of Hope, a medical relief group based in Wichita. It sends medical supplies and equipment across the world and operates a hospital it built in Bolivia. When an earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, Hospitals of Hope's board members talked about what they could do to help.

"Do we go? Do we send medical supplies?" Wawrzewski said the board pondered.

Hospitals of Hope decided the best way to reach out was to build a portable medical clinic that Wawrzewski said will "outshine" any Third-World hospital.

The first shipping container _ 40 feet long, eight feet wide and nine feet tall ) arrived Monday. Workers will put in electrical, plumbing and air conditioning. Hospitals of Hope plans to build five so-called "Clinics in a Can" for the relief effort in Haiti.

The first two will each feature three exam rooms, a laboratory and a small storage area. Each clinic will cost about $12,000 to build, equip and ship to Haiti via the Dominican Republic, Wawrzewski said. They hope it will be on the ground in Haiti within five weeks.

Hospitals of Hope will work with other groups, including Heart to Heart International of Olathe, about where the clinics can best be used in Haiti.

"We don't have feet on the ground," he said. "We're going to have to use the ears and eyes of other groups."

If Hospitals of Hope gets enough money, it plans to build a small hospital by combining three of the clinics in a "U" formation. The hospital would give doctors working in Haiti a surgical suite and recovery area, an X-ray, an inpatient treatment area, exam rooms and a laboratory.

Wesley Medical Center is donating supplies and equipment for the clinics.

The project, Wesley CEO Hugh Tappan said in a news release, allows Wesley to have an immediate impact in Haiti.

Wawrzewski is a physician assistant at the hospital.

A clinic that Hospitals of Hope built in 2005 already is being used in Haiti. Doctors and nurses worked out of it during Hurricane Katrina, and then the clinic was shipped to its intended home of Les Cayes, Haiti.

Daniel White, international missions coordinator and one of three Hospitals of Hope staff members, said the group needs volunteers to help turn the shipping container into a clinic. Electricians, plumbers, welders, framers and carpenters are needed beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Hospitals of Hope also is looking for donations of building materials.

The project will allow people who can't go to Haiti to help in a way that makes an impact, Wawrzewski said.

Wawrzewski has been to Haiti twice. He was 22 when he went to the impoverished country, his first trip overseas, on a mission trip with his uncle.

"That really planted the seed for this organization," he said.

He founded Hospitals of Hope in 1998.

Eventually, he'd like to see the group have two "Clinics in a Can" on hand to be available immediately for any natural disasters in the United States.

Inspecting the shipping container Monday, Wawrzewski smiled wide.

"I'm excited to tear into it," he said.

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