19th January 2017- Hospital wheelchairs recycled by prisoners to help people with disabilities living overseas in poverty
A new venture is being rolled out to recycle and re-build Airedale hospital’s wheelchairs to help people with disabilities living in poverty overseas.
The mobility team at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust is working in partnership with Bradford Based charity Margaret Carey Foundation, who collect old wheelchairs to take to HMP Garth Prison, in Chorley, so that offenders can repair them. They are then transported by charity PhysioNet to be used in deprived areas of countries such as Fiji, Ghana, Benin, Swaziland and South Africa.
Offenders strip down and rebuild the wheelchairs in supervised workshops. Qualified occupational therapists volunteering for PhysioNet carry out clinical assessments to make sure the wheelchairs are suitable for individual patients who cannot afford health care or health equipment including mobility aids.
David Brown, director of the Margaret Carey Foundation, was moved by the plight of a boy in India who had to drag himself across the earthen floor to attend an English Language class before getting his wheelchair.
He said: “When we gave this boy his new wheelchair, which had to be specially adapted due to the shape of his body, a beautiful smile spread over his face. This venture makes such a tremendous difference to peoples’ lives.” The wheelchair had been made by a repeat offender from Bradford who had trained in prison to become a skilled mechanic.
David told of how a video of this boy receiving his wheelchair has a profound effect on another offender new to the wheelchair repair workshop. David said: “He resolved there and then, to amend his ways reject his life of crime and live a law abiding life. Seeing the video made him realise just how lucky he was compared to the boy in India.”
Michelle West, mobility services manager at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust said that their engineers always refurbish their wheelchairs several times before buying new ones. Sometimes they reuse just some of the parts. The wheelchairs recycled through this venture can be up to 17 years old, some had belonged to five people previously and they would otherwise be scrapped.
So far the team has supplied the charities with 40 wheelchairs and aims to recycle as much of its scrap metal in this way to make a real difference.
Michelle said: “This is a fabulous partnership between our hospital, the prison and two local charities and volunteer therapists working back-to-back.
“We are really proud to get involved in this ‘green’ venture as it enables the trust to be environmentally-friendly, promotes sustainable communities whilst giving hope to many people with disabilities living in poverty overseas. It also helps to reduce our costs of scrapping mobility equipment.”
Michelle will be speaking to other mobility services managers at a regional meeting about the many benefits of this venture in a bid to help them to get involved.
She said: “There are many health services who would like to recycle more of their equipment and our supplies department has worked with us to make it as easy as possible. We would be happy to offer advice to help them reduce any perceived risk.”
David Kaye, chair of PhysioNet said for the past 16 years the charity has been collecting redundant special needs, disability and mobility equipment from health organisations throughout the UK for re-use in developing countries. He said: “Our relationship with the Margaret Carey Foundation is a perfect match – they have access to prison workshops for repairing wheelchairs and we have a growing number of organisations abroad desperate for our equipment, particularly wheelchairs.”