The idea of flying hospitals may sound like a fantasy, but there are organizations promoting this concept to provide travelling care to countries that need urgent help.
Global Flying Hospitals (GFH) is a charity organization with its US office in Palm Beach Florida, and its Asia office in Macau. It seeks to assist developing countries to become self-sufficient and sustainable with healthcare for their citizens who lack or cannot afford medical care. This vision includes the building of a fleet or aircraft with four Boeing 747's, refurbished as teaching hospitals and each designed for a group of differing medical specialisms, four Hercules C130's ferrying high-tech field medical clinics, medical equipment, emergency modular housing, sanitation, water purification and solar power equipment. And four Pilatus PC12 single engine turbine craft, for micro-insertion of medical professionals, patient evacuation and rendezvous of supplies or patients with the Boeing's and Hercules. A special MediVac helicopter division is being planned.
Global Flying Hospitals says it is a comprehensive new model for humanitarian healthcare that totally supersedes the old band-aid methods and thinking of the past, caused by a lack of resources and dis-interest by the world towards developing countries. GFH offers a solution to the humanitarian medical challenges of this now uncertain and ailing world.
A completely separate organization is The Flying Hospital. The Flying Hospital is a 36 year-old aircraft; a refurbished 1974 Lockheed 1011, that is the product of the organization, “Operation Blessing International”, founded by Pat Robertson. A company was formed, The Flying Hospital Inc. to operate and manage the aircraft, receive donations and support. It was meant for launching various medical missions, for one and two week time-slots. Admirable work was conducted and thousands of medical procedures were undertaken, during its initial tour to a number of countries. The aircraft was grounded in 2001 and mothballed in the desert, in Tucson, where it has sat for these many years and is now nearing obsolescence. Although it is possible to resurrect the aircraft, it is old and not many Lockheeds fly, thereby making parts procurement very difficult and costly. Bill Horan of Operation Blessing states: “I don't see it as impossible that this plane might fly again, but it is very unlikely for a variety of reasons. That being said, we continue to try and find a good home for this plane."
Global Flying Hospitals commends the efforts of The Flying Hospital, as it served humanity well. However, there is no relationship, connections or cross purposes in either organization. GFH explains that as far as it knows, only one other such organization exists, the charity Orbis’s Flying Eye Hospital.
The Flying Eye Hospital is a hospital with wings that brings together dedicated eye care professionals and aviators to give the gift of sight to developing countries around the world. Onboard the refurbished DC-10 jet aircraft, local doctors, nurses and technicians work alongside Orbis’s international medical team to exchange knowledge and improve skills. The mobile teaching hospital is a unique tool in the fight against preventable blindness in developing countries. In the 48-seat classroom at the front of the plane, doctors gather for lectures, discussions and live broadcasts of surgical procedures being performed nearby in the Flying Eye Hospital operating room. Prior to the start of a Flying Eye Hospital visit, local doctors pre-select patients whose conditions are relevant. Priority is given to children, individuals who are bilaterally blind, cannot afford to have the surgery otherwise, and represent good teaching cases. Local doctors maintain oversight of patients before, during and after surgery. Upon the Flying Eye Hospital’s departure, videos of the surgical demonstrations are left with local institutions to be used in further training. Since its first program in 1982, the Flying Eye Hospital has travelled to more than 70 countries and saved the sight of millions of people. By training local doctors and eye care workers, who in turn teach their colleagues; it is strengthening the capabilities of local health care communities in blindness prevention and treatment.
Both GFH and The Flying Eye Hospital welcome donations and volunteers, but The Flying Hospital is inactive. GFH warns that there are fraudsters purporting to be fund raising for The Flying Hospital to by accepting charitable donation. GFH states, “ At this date it is a fabrication and illegal.”