Who's stopping MOM?
Container with well-needed hospital supplies sits on wharf for more than a year
Andrew Harris, Sunday Gleaner Writer
A charitable organisation out of the United States, which has donated millions of dollars worth of equipment and supplies to Jamaica over the past 17 years, is now thinking of turning its back on the country because of bungling with a container shipped to the island one year ago.
Medical Outreach Missions (MOM), founded and led by a Jamaican, Mavis Bailey-Moore, is livid that the container filled with supplies which local hospitals desperately need has been left on the wharf for so long.
According to Bailey-Moore, she is pained when she hears on the news that there are people who have to be sleeping on hospital floors, because there are not enough beds, while the 40-foot container remains in the custody of the Jamaica Customs Agency.
"I have to say I am so turned off and upset with my own country," Moore told The Sunday Gleaner.
"In September 2001, I was in Jamaica at the May Pen Hospital with three 40-foot containers, which we distributed to different hospitals, and every time we send a container, I come to Jamaica with a few people from the organisation, and we have to pay to clear it, find transportation, and do all the work they require," shared Moore.
She said last year this time, when MOM packed and shipped the container destined for the Port Maria Hospital in St Mary, she fell ill and could not travel.
Bailey-Moore said before the container was shipped off, she told the Jamaican authorities that her organisation would not be able to pay for the clearing of the shipment this time around and was told that the hospital would raise the money to take care of the charges.
SUPPLIES STILL In STORAGE
"I was later told that the container would be taken care of by the regional health authority, and from then, the 5th of this month made one year since the container has been sitting in Kingston," charged Bailey-Moore.
"They eventually emptied out the container. I was told and it is in a government storage in Kingston."
Bailey-Moore said the container has food items, beds, chairs, sheets, wheelchairs, kitchen equipment, clothes for newborns and the elderly, walkers, crutches, gloves and more.
These are similar to other donations which MOM has given to local hospitals, starting back in 1997.
Chief executive officer of the St Elizabeth-based Black River Hospital, Elizabeth Diana Brown-Miller, confirmed that her institution has received well-needed supplies from MOM in the past.
"They usually give us used stuff, but they are in good condition. Usually beds, wheelchairs and some other stuff - as a matter of fact, we still have some of the stuff here in use right now," Brown-Miller told our news team.
For Bailey-Moore, there is much more where that came from.
She declared that her organisation has five storage areas in New York filled with equipment that can furnish a lot of hospitals in Jamaica and is paying US$1,625 each month for the use of the facilities, but her donors are considering taking a step back from the island.
"Two weeks ago, we had to decide to pack a container and send it to Liberia and we didn't go through the trouble we are going through with Jamaica," declared the obviously angry donor.
According to Bailey-Moore, when the container arrived in Kingston, she was told that it would cost J$70,000 to clear it. She claimed that the shipping company has now indicated that the figure has now climbed to more than $500,000 because of storage fees.
The 70-year-old Bailey-Moore said the response she has been getting from the persons she is in contact with locally was discouraging.
"If lie was money, I would be a billionaire from last year until now. Every time I call them, I am hearing the lies about getting the containers tomorrow and I am so frustrated, because a lot of people leave Jamaica and come to this country (the United States) and don't remember they were born in Jamaica.
"I come here and work and buy stuff to pack the container, and to see the response I get from my country, I am turned off. I spoke to a representative of the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA) and that was it, the container is still in Customs' hands," she added.
She alleged that she has received reports that the items in the container might be placed on the auction block because they have not been cleared from Customs for so long.
When contacted, NERHA said the container has been on the wharves for a while now, but challenged the claim that it has been there for more than one year.
"We got the bill of lading and all documents associated with it in late December, which by the time we went on holiday it was earlier in January," said the official of the regional health authority.
According to NERHA, it was not aware of the container for some time, and the charge levied for the delay in clearing it (demurrage charge) has since climbed to US$3,400 (approximately J$380,000)
NERHA further charged that the container also includes personal items which MOM has sent to individuals.
"It was specifically sent to the Port Maria Hospital and I don't know all the consultations MOM had before the container was sent. All we know is that we have tried to solicit funds to get the container cleared," said a NERHA official whose name is being withheld.
The NERHA official argued that it might not be a bad thing if the items in the container are auctioned, as they could then be bought at the auction at a price that could be less than the demurrage charge.