THE world’s largest civilian hospital ship, equipped to perform advanced surgery as well as train medical staff, has been launched by the global health charity Mercy Ships.
The charity has been using ships to provide health care around the world, particularly in Africa, for decades, but its new ship is its first purpose built hospital ship. The cost of the Global Mercy, including its six operating theatres and laboratory, is about $200 million (£145 million). The money was raised from corporate donors and and members of the Mercy Ships board.
The project has been eight years in the running, and sea trials were successfully completed in April.
The Mercy Ships UK executive director, Joanne Balaam, said: “We are grateful to everyone who invested and will give towards this new vessel that will more than double our capacity to bring hope and healing to thousands of people in the coming years.”
Over a 50-year lifespan, the vessel is expected to provide surgical treatment for 150,000 patients, as well as train thousands of medical staff in their own countries. Its interior measures 30,000 square metres, making it the world’s largest hospital ship for civilians.
The founder of Mercy Ships, Don Stephens, said: “African heads of state and ministers of health have often expressed a desire for more of their health-care professionals to be trained in-country. This ship will do exactly that. Many who suffer from disability and disfigurement will have access to surgical treatment and whole-person care in health-care systems that will enable them to reach their God-given potential.
“We hope that this new vessel and the volunteer crew who serve on her will bring hope, healing, and transformation for the next 40 to 50 years.”
The ship will set sail this month from China, where it has been built, to Antwerp, for fitting with IT and medical equipment. It is likely to be in operation in Africa next year, alongside the existing ship Africa Mercy.
The charity is now recruiting short- and long-term volunteers to work on the new vessel, which will have space for up to 950 medical staff and other professionals.