Customs demands $3.5 million for free goods - Equipment donated to Savanna-la-Mar hospital stuck at wharf

October 31, 2017

Critical medical equipment that has been donated to the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital in Westmoreland is now sitting at the wharf as Jamaica Customs Agency has decided not to release the goods.

According to Customs, the shipment was not cleared as additional information is required from the Ministry of Health charities arm, the Health and Wellness for Life Foundation. The equipment includes two examination beds, an ultrasound machine, several medical scales and blood-pressure units.

Susan Brown, one of the donors, said she has called on the Jamaica Customs Agency to do more to ensure the goods are cleared.

"How much longer must the patients at the hospital be forced to wait? How many Jamaican citizens must perish for lack of equipment before Freeport Customs handles this issue with the care and attention it deserves - one, 10, 100? What is the price of doing the right thing in Jamaica, and when did it become such an administrative burden to give kindness? This is not the Jamaica I remember. This is not the Jamaica of my youth. What has happened to the spirit of kindness and oneness that once existed? We have already collected 10 more hospital beds and wheelchairs. We are willing to give back to my country, my island, but we cannot do anything until we know that this initial situation is resolved," Brown said.




Brown says although she has more beds to donate, she is terrified by the ordeal that she had to endure.

"They went online and saw that the ultrasound machine was US$39,000 (approximately J$5 million) and that the bed was US$7,500 (approximately J$955,000) and they are telling me that I must pay a fee of US$28,000 (more than J$3.5 million) to clear it ... I donated it for free. I am giving back to my country," she said.

Robert Ferguson said that although it seems that their issue will soon be resolved, he wanted to share their story so that other persons will know what they have to deal with.

"We just want people to know, because they need to learn from our experience so that they know what to do if they plan to donate because in the end it is the people suffer," he said.

Shanaga Brown said he was moved to give back to the hospital after a relative died there. "My wife's niece, through a difficult pregnancy, had passed away in childbirth at Sav-La-Mar Hospital recently, a situation which may have been avoided if an ultrasound was present," he noted.

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