Providers dig into supply closets for Haiti

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Provider Raymond Arthurs is "only one person," but with the help of fellow providers, he collected more than $100,000 worth of equipment and supplies for Haiti in just two weeks.

Arthurs was moved to act by his 8-year-old daughter, who was troubled after she saw media coverage of the devastating earthquake that struck the impoverished nation Jan. 12.

"She said 'Daddy, you have to help these people,'" said Arthurs, owner of Manalapan, N.J.-based First Care Medical Supplies and vice president of the Jersey Association of Medical Equipment Services (JAMES). "I said 'I'm only one person and they need a lot of help.'"

So he reached out to JAMES's members to collect mobility equipment, bandages and syringes for a local Haitian aid organization.

"We are all competitors but everybody pitched in," said Arthurs. "Our industry is bashed in the media repeatedly and it's nice to show what we are really all about. We help people every day."

That sentiment was echoed by Jim Shurlow, director of HME services for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based MedEquip, the HME branch of the University of Michigan Health System.

"We have a mission to support the community, not just locally but internationally," he said. "We've sent a couple of 40-foot shipping containers of DME equipment and supplies."

Provider Jennifer Arnett has collected "truckloads" of non-perishable items and medical supplies from physicians and hospitals for a local ministry group that has feet on the ground in Haiti.

"They are keeping a supply list that they e-mail constantly to me," said Arnett, homecare coordinator and RRT for Louisville, Ky.-based Premier Homecare. "We don't want to be shipping things down there that aren't necessary."

Premier has participated in medical missions with the ministry--including one to the Dominican Republic last November--and Arnett is confident that the donations are going where they are needed.

"It's getting to the people," she said.

The Accredited Medical Equipment Providers of America (AMEPA) has secured a 1,600-square-foot warehouse in North Miami Beach, Fla., to serve as a collection point for donations. Responses have come from as far as California.

"We're working directly with Catholic Charities and put out an initial list of (needed items)," said Sean Schwinghammer, executive director of AMEPA. "It's coming in consistently--wheelchairs, beds, everything you'd expect."

The need for donations will continue long after the earthquake fades from headlines.

"Haiti's plight was so terrible to begin with," said Arnett. "People need to pull together and support them."