Two V.I. health care centers will be hosting dedication ceremonies this week to thank the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation for recent donations of medical equipment and continued contributions aimed at improving the quality of health care in the territory.
The foundation recently gave a much-needed automated blood count machine to the St. Thomas East End Medical Center, and more than $50,000 worth of equipment to the Frederiksted Health Center.
Representatives from the foundation also will present a $21,000 check today to Schneider Regional Medical Center for its 2015 summer student nurse externship program, which provides training to University of the Virgin Islands nursing students and prepares those students to adapt to the hospital setting once they are licensed.
The Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation, which is headquartered in Delray Beach, Fla., was created in 1991 in honor of Claude “Bennie” Benjamin, a St. Croix songwriter who rose to fame in New York during the 1940s and 1950s.
His desire before his death in 1989 was to create a foundation to address health care needs and bring trained physicians back to the Virgin Islands, according to Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation member Tina Beale.
The foundation has since awarded more than $2.5 million in scholarships and grants to the Virgin Islands for medical and health equipment, educational materials, programs and facility improvements.
One of the first contributions was a medical library to assist Schneider Hospital in regaining its certification following the destruction caused by Hurricane Hugo, Beale said.
The foundation also has funded scholarships for medical and health care students as well as the nursing training program between the University of the Virgin Islands and Schneider Regional Medical Center, Beale said.
Beale said the programs are ways to educate and keep qualified health care professionals in the territory.
The St. Thomas East End Medical Center planned to host a dedication ceremony at 9 a.m. today to thank the foundation for its most recent equipment donation: an automated blood count machine that the center received in May.
A gift of this magnitude is the first of its kind for the facility, and the equipment itself will greatly improve efficiency and quality of care, according to Monife Stout, public relations director at the St. Thomas East End Medical Center.
The St. Thomas East End Medical Center lab, which sees about 25 patients daily, currently conducts complete blood count testing off-island, and must wait at least 48 hours for results, Stout said.
The new machine, which will be put to use after the dedication ceremony, will allow for lab results to be processed on-site, according to Stout.
The St. Thomas East End Medical Center also received an industrial-grade refrigeration system, which ensures the facility stays in compliance with standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allows the center to store vaccinations and makes processing lab specimens more efficient, according to Stout.
“We visited the health center a couple of times, and they demonstrated a need to expedite the way they process lab specimens, because they didn’t have adequate storage before sending them to a lab,” Beale said. “The new refrigeration system will enable them to stagger patients better.”
The foundation also donated several pieces of sophisticated equipment to the ob-gyn department of Frederiksted Health Center, including ultrasound machines, urinalysis machines and an EKG machine, according to Frederiksted Health Care Inc. Chief Executive Officer Masserae Sprauve-Webster and Frederiksted Health Center nurse Judy Ann Ross.
Ross said the equipment was a dire need for the center, which relocated last year and did not have this specific equipment at the new site. The center sees about 22,000 visits from an estimated 7,000 patients each year, including about 300 pregnant women who will benefit from the new ultrasound machine, Ross said.
The EKG, which monitors heart health, and the urinalysis machine, which detects ketone levels, blood or infection, will be used for all patients, Ross said.
Frederiksted Health Care Inc. will have its dedication ceremony at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Ingeborg Nesbitt Clinic (Frederiksted Health Center), not only to honor the most recent contribution, but all of the work the foundation has done, event coordinator and human resources manager Monica Rios said.
“We want to recognize all their donations to the community in general,” Rios said.
Although no dedication ceremonies are scheduled at Luis Hospital this year, the foundation has given extensively to the hospital in the past, and will be meeting with interim Chief Executive Officer Ken Okolo on Friday, Beale said.
According to Beale, Luis Hospital did not request anything this year; but in the past, the foundation has donated advanced life support equipment, medical software and a medical auditorium dedicated in the foundation’s honor. They also have contributed a cardiac catheterization lab and have given extensively to the new cardiac center, Beale said.
“It’s gratifying to the foundation when we can identify a pressing need and address it and improve health care provided to the community,” Beale said.
– Contact Ashley Mayrianne Jones at 714-9130 or