DAKAR, Senegal – In the midst of celebrations around the arrival of the Global Mercy to Senegal, training has already begun by the crew of the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, currently docked in Dakar for its first African mission. In June, more than 260 Senegalese healthcare professionals will receive training on board this brand-new hospital ship, through a variety of courses, including Surgical Skills, SAFE Anaesthesia, Nursing Skills, and more. These first of many training sessions will address topics impacting delivery of safe surgical care.
During the week, Don Stephens, Founder of Mercy Ships, received the Commander of the Ordre national du Lion du Sénégal. Veteran surgeon Dr. Gary Parker, Africa Mercy Chief Medical Officer, received the Officer of the Ordre national du Lion du Sénégal at the Presidential Palace. The Order of the Lion is reserved for only the most distinguished civil or military service.
Ceremonies throughout the past week commemorated more than 30 years of service in Africa and were concluded with a special ceremony of naming and blessing for the Global Mercy, attended by key members of Mercy Ships, governmental dignitaries, and partners including WHO Africa, Johnson & Johnson, and Smile Train.
At the Ceremony of Blessing, Dr. Diop, Secretary General of Senegal, said “It’s my pleasure to be here on behalf of the President to help my country (which is) facing huge surgical needs, as you know. We are very honoured and proud to host the Global Mercy for the first time in Africa. Access to surgery is very limited and expensive. On one hand, hospitals are not well equipped. On the other, our medical staff are not well trained. Mercy Ships comes as a gift.”
Gert van de Weerdhof, Mercy Ships Chief Executive Officer, stated, “This is a holy moment. After many years of planning, preparation, and partnership, the Global Mercy officially becomes part of the Mercy Ships fleet, doubling opportunities for safe and free surgery to take place, transforming lives not only of the patients but their families and communities.”
He went on to say, “We aim to provide approximately 5,000 training hours during this first visit of the Global Mercy, incorporating areas of the hospital we could never usually use for training in a field service, creating an impactful experience for our participants. We look forward to returning in 2023 to Dakar to continue our support and see surgical capacity strengthened.”
Last week H.E. President of Senegal Macky Sall inaugurated the world’s largest private floating hospital and committed to accelerate access to obstetric, surgical, and anaesthetic care for the nations of Africa.
“This week has been a truly pivotal moment for the future of health care in Africa” stated Darryl Anderson, Executive Director of Mercy Ships Canada. Anderson further noted that now with two hospital ships serving Africa, the need for medical staff and other volunteers becomes even more important. Anderson went on to say that he is proud of the 41 Canadian volunteers currently serving on the two ships and looks forward to returning to Canada to build on the great momentum that has commenced with the Africa Celebration.
The Global Mercy, is 174 metres long, 28.6 metres wide and has space for 200 patients, six operating rooms, a laboratory, general outpatient clinics, dental, and eye clinics. The hospital decks cover a total area of 7,000 square metres and contain the latest training facilities. When in full service, the ship will be able to accommodate up to 950 people when docked, including crewmembers and volunteers from all over the world and serve collaboratively with the Africa Mercy, in operation since 2007.
Over the next 50 years of the Global Mercy’s lifespan, it’s expected that more than 150,000 lives will be transformed through surgery alone, with each transformation representing a person with a name, a face, a story, a family, and a purpose. Thousands of African medical professionals will receive training and mentoring with the goal of multiplied impact within their own communities.
Following the four-week training period in Dakar, the ship will complete final equipping in the Canary Islands for the remainder of 2022 and plans to return to Dakar in 2023 for the crew’s first surgical field service. The Africa Mercy will remain in Senegal until the end of the year, continuing to provide surgery and bringing hope and healing to many.