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Sharp Health News

Making a difference for patients in Tanzania

July 18, 2018

Making a difference for patients in Tanzania

Sharp HealthCare’s Colleen Murphy (left) and members of the medical mission trip to the Olmoti Clinic in Tanzania, with director, Dr. Richard Ole Nkambi (in lab coat).

At least half of the world's population has little to no access to essential health services, according to a report from the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

Each year, thousands of health care providers participate in medical mission trips to provide much-needed care in the poorest regions of the world. One of them, Sharp HealthCare's own Colleen Murphy, MSN, RN, recently returned from a trip to Tanzania where she treated patients at the Olmoti Clinic.

Diane Raleigh, PhD, a friend of Murphy's and one of the first 500 members of the Peace Corps, helped raise funds to build the facility. Opened in June 2010, the Olmoti Clinic is the first-ever medical facility serving the Maasai people, an isolated community who live at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. Murphy first visited the clinic in 2016, bringing 100 pounds of donated equipment, including an automatic blood pressure monitor, baby blankets, dressings, an otoscope and an eye scope.

Through Sharp's partnership with the nonprofit Ssubi is Hope, the clinic also received donated medical supplies that would otherwise have gone into landfills. Once a piece of equipment is considered "expired" according to U.S. standards, hospitals are required by law to throw it away. However, that same equipment is invaluable, even lifesaving, in other parts of the world.

Caring for the Maasai

In June 2018, Murphy and another employee from Sharp Grossmont Hospital coordinated the procurement and transport of 24 beds and mattresses, as well as a vaporizer, dressings, sterile drapes, gloves and more to the clinic. They also sent an anesthesia machine, which at the time was the only functioning one within 500 miles. Murphy, along with another nurse and a wound doctor, put the donated supplies to use as they cared for patients at the Olmoti Clinic.

The Maasai are pastoral nomads whose community has been in existence for more than 500 years. Maintaining longstanding customs and traditions, they sustain themselves without the modern equipment or services available in more developed areas. As a result, certain injuries are common among them and bring a steady flow of patients into the clinic.


Colleen Murphy treats patient with foot injury
Because the Maasai walk for miles at a time with simple sandals, foot injuries are common.

Because the women build their own dwellings, or "boma," many sustain injuries from falling out of trees while gathering sticks to construct them. In addition, because the Maasai walk for miles at a time with simple sandals made from leather, old tires and beads, foot injuries are common. Burns from motorcycle accidents, respiratory problems from cooking in poorly ventilated homes, and infections from shared grooming tools are some of the other prevalent injuries among the Maasai.

During Murphy's time at the clinic, she treated hundreds of patients, many with the same types of injuries. To do so, she and others tapped into the supplies donated by Sharp HealthCare. Putting it into perspective, Murphy explains, "Supplies that we would have had to throw away are now being used to change the lives of people in a community halfway across the world. That's really something!"

For the news media: To talk with Colleen Murphy about her medical mission trip for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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