Transforming Healthcare in Eswatini with Innovation and Compassion

Transforming Healthcare in Eswatini with Innovation and Compassion

The Kingdom of Eswatini is the unexpected location of an extraordinary, state-of-the-art healthcare facility that is leveraging the latest technology and innovations to deliver exceptional free healthcare to people in need. The Miracle Campus Hospital in the town of Sidvokodvo has been described as “the quintessence of excellence, innovation, and impact in health services” by World Bank country director Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly.

The story of the Miracle Campus, The Luke Commission and a powerful digital platform called Luvelo was among the compelling topics on the programme at the recent 2024 SAPICS Conference in Cape Town, Africa’s leading annual event for the supply chain profession. In a moving, inspiring and informative session, Echo VanderWal told SAPICS attendees how she and her husband, Harry, a medical doctor, started The Luke Commission and later built the hospital.

It was in 2005, at the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Eswatini, that they decided to move from the USA with their three-year-old triplets and one-year-old baby, driven by a mission of compassion. The VanderWals founded The Luke Commission (TLC) with a simple goal: to provide comprehensive healthcare to those most in need, particularly those suffering from HIV/AIDS. What began with a small team of eight, conducting outreaches from a rented house, has grown into a beacon of hope and innovation in the heart of Eswatini.

Their journey was not easy. In the early days, Harry and Echo, along with their children and a translator, would leave before dawn and return after dark, reaching as many people as they could. The need was immense, and their team quickly grew. By 2013, TLC had acquired land and established the Miracle Campus, a self-contained hub for healthcare services, with over a dozen buildings serving hundreds of patients daily.

Covid-19 pandemic

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, TLC’s commitment to Eswatini became even more critical. The nation faced a high death rate and a severe lack of facilities for critical patients. Eswatini relied completely on South Africa for imported oxygen. Rising to the challenge, TLC built a 2500LPM PSA oxygen plant in just 52 days, ensuring the country’s oxygen independence. This facility began operations just before the third wave of the pandemic, reducing the national mortality rate by 50% between the second and third waves of the pandemic. The plant has produced 500 million litres of oxygen to date, significantly contributing to the country’s healthcare infrastructure and reducing CO2 emissions by 350 tons.

One of the most important aspects of TLC’s work is their snakebite treatment programme. Eswatini is home to some of the world’s most venomous snakes, and few facilities stock adequate antivenom. TLC’s programme, with a nationally recognised treatment algorithm and consistent stock of antivenom, has treated nearly 900 snakebite victims in the past five years, offering life-saving care to those in desperate need.

Energy and sustainability are at the forefront of TLC’s initiatives. With Eswatini’s energy contract with South Africa set to expire in 2025, TLC has taken proactive steps to ensure energy independence. The Miracle Campus is on its way to being predominantly off-grid by late 2024, with extensive solar installations and plans for further expansion, including micro-hydro installations.

Medical drone network

To overcome the challenges of rural healthcare delivery, TLC has implemented a medical drone network. These drones, powered by solar energy, facilitate rapid, two-way delivery of medical supplies, including snakebite antivenom and blood units, ensuring that life-saving treatments reach those in need quickly and efficiently. The drones can carry payloads of up to 4kg. The drone programme is operated by local pilots and ground crew, and five Eswatini nationals have been trained as pilots.

At the 2024 SAPICS Conference, VanderWal introduced attendees to the Luvelo digital ecosystem, developed by TLC to optimise their supply chains, streamline healthcare delivery and improve operations and personnel management. Meaning “compassion” in Siswati, the Luvelo platform emerged from TLC’s need to manage their exponential growth and increasingly complex operations, she explained. This mobile-first, human-centric software integrates healthcare, supply chain and HR processes, promoting efficiency and accountability even in low-resource settings. It was an MIT Solve finalist in 2023. Luvelo’s success at TLC showcases its potential to revolutionise operations for other NGOs, governments and businesses, VanderWal stated.

“The story of The Luke Commission is one of relentless compassion, innovation and commitment to improving lives. We are delighted to have been able to share it, and the potential of Luvelo, with SAPICS delegates this year,” says SAPICS president MJ Schoemaker. More than 750 supply chain managers from 30 countries across Africa and around the world attended the 2024 SAPICS Conference, to explore this increasingly important profession’s current challenges and opportunities, to learn and share knowledge. This year’s 46th SAPICS Conference was hosted by The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management (SAPICS) in association with Southern African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF).

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

The Luke Commission at the 2024 SAPICS Conference, Africa’s leading event for the supply chain profession.

Echo VanderWal shared the extraordinary story of The Luke Commission, The Miracle Campus and the Luvelo digital ecosystem at the 2024 SAPICS Conference.

For more information:

Tel:         +27 (0) 10 013 3442

Email:    info@sapics.org.za

ABOUT SAPICS: http://www.sapics.org

Since 1966, SAPICS has worked to elevate, educate and empower the community of supply chain professionals in South Africa and across the continent. This is done via membership, events, the annual conference and education courses and workshops through Authorised Education Providers and others.

SAPICS is registered in South Africa as a not-for-profit company. Its mandate is to ensure that any profits made are used towards the continual development and overall benefit of individuals and organisations in the supply chain management profession.

The annual SAPICS Conference is the leading event in Africa for supply chain professionals.

ABOUT SAAFF: https://saaff.org.za/

The Southern African Association of Freight Forwarders NPC (SAAFF) was established in 1921.  For more than a century, SAAFF has played an essential role in freight forwarding and international trade, with members facilitating these activities through their dedicated involvement in the management of transportation, customs clearing, documentation, third-party payments, and many other elements of the international supply chain.

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