CHI supports airlift of surplus medical equipment to Hanoi

November 1, 2012


When St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver shut its doors last year, replaced by a new facility a few miles to the west, administrators promised to send all of its used equipment to its "sister hospital" — Bach Mai Hospital in Vietnam's capital city of Hanoi.

A central question remained: How to find the funding to transport the more than 50 tons of used but fully functional equipment — including approximately 180 hospital beds, blood pressure cuffs, surgical tools, operating tables, ventilators and gurneys estimated to be worth more than $1 million.

With help from a host of friends, colleagues and business associates, Dr. Carl Bartecchi, a Colorado physician who oversees a training program in academic medicine for Vietnamese physicians and nurses at Bach Mai, raised approximately $300,000 in several weeks to fund the flight of the humanitarian cargo to Hanoi.

The financial support came from a variety of sources — including Catholic Health Initiatives, a sponsor of St. Anthony, which has provided more than $650,000 in Mission and Ministry Fund grants since 2007 to the Bach Mai Hospital Project, a nonprofit program founded and led by Bartecchi. Physicians at St. Anthony contributed more than $120,000.

"This is going to mean so much to the patients and the physicians in Hanoi," said Bartecchi, who has been on hand as the daily patient population at the 2,000-bed hospital swelled to more than 3,000. "Physicians will have more instruments, more equipment to work with — and patients will have a lot more comfort. Some of these patients are now sleeping two, three to a bed."

The adjustable, hydraulic beds — most from St. Anthony, others from St. Catherine Hospital, Garden City, Kan., another CHI-sponsored facility — look almost brand new, and feel the same way, Bartecchi said. "These beds cost about $10,000 new," he said. "These are perfectly usable, especially when, all of sudden, there's a mattress instead of, in some cases, a straw mat.

"This equipment is going to have a huge impact for many people," said Bartecchi.

For instance, such standard equipment in the U.S. as an otoscope, a small, handheld device used in virtually every physical exam, is a rarity at Bach Mai, where physicians often must make do with the most rudimentary alternative. The same holds true for ophthalmoscopes, another common device used to view the back of the eye. "Right now, (doctors at Bach Mai) have nothing like these," said Bartecchi. "These are very valuable."

Beneficial connections
The donated equipment — all in good shape and ready for use — was loaded onto trucks at St. Anthony on Oct. 9, arriving two days later at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. It was then loaded onto a Boeing 747 for the 18-hour flight to Hanoi, with Bartecchi strapped into a seat in the bare-bones cargo jet, accompanying the equipment to ensure that it reached its final destination.

Unfortunately, two motorcycle ambulances had to be taken off the cargo manifest. In the congested streets of Hanoi, motorcycle ambulances can respond to emergencies much more quickly than traditional ambulances. But, just before the bikes were set to be loaded on the truck in Denver, Bartecchi noticed structural issues. The motorcycle ambulances will be repaired by the manufacturer in the U.S. before being shipped to Hanoi, he said.

St. Anthony, which is part of Centura Health, a statewide health care system in Colorado cosponsored by Englewood, Colo.-based CHI, has a long clinical and charitable affiliation with Bach Mai, a teaching facility for Hanoi Medical University.

A clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado and a veteran of the Vietnam War, Bartecchi teaches at Bach Mai twice a year. Through the Bach Mai Hospital Project, U.S. physicians train their counterparts at Bach Mai twice each year in critical-care medicine, toxicology, cardiology, pediatrics and emergency medicine. The program also brings Vietnamese physicians to St. Anthony Hospital, the Mayo Clinic and Denver Health each year for training stints ranging from six to 12 months. Those individuals then return to Vietnam to train their colleagues. St. Anthony Hospital is the facility in Lakewood, Colo., that replaced St. Anthony Central.

A wide assortment of individuals and organizations have made this shipment possible, Bartecchi said, including an airfreight company, Chapman Freeborn, that cut its price for the flight to Noi Bai International Airport outside of Hanoi. Financial assistance included support from CHI, the St. Anthony Health Foundation, St. Anthony Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, Michigan State University, the Craig and Susan McCaw Foundation and many private donors, including members of the American-Vietnamese community.

"This has been a fantastic effort by a lot of fantastic people," Bartecchi said.

CHA medical surplus recovery resources
To learn more about medical surplus recovery organizations and access all of CHA's resources on the subject including videos and an electronic assessment tool, visit

Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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