Healthcare4 min read

A World With No Operating Rooms

Blakely Thomas-Aguilar
Since 1978, Mercy Ships staff has provided over 92,000 lifesaving surgeries at 594 ports.
Since 1978, Mercy Ships staff has provided over 92,000 lifesaving surgeries at 594 ports.
313 million surgical procedures take place every year. Only 6% occur in the world’s poorest nations. For impoverished Africans, a floating hospital brings hope and healing to the forgotten poor.

Tresor, a 10-year-old Cameroon boy. A fire that left scars across his body and denied him the use of his arm.

Assiatou, an 18-year-old woman with a dream. A car accident that left her unable to walk without pain.

Emmanuel, a baby born to loving parents. A tumor with the potential to kill.

Without Mercy Ships and its selfless teams of volunteers, these three people—and thousands more—would have died or suffered painful lives.

Instead, Tresor, Assiastou, Emmanuel and so many others living in impoverished African regions found healing and new hope when a hospital floated to shore.

With everyone doing their bit, and a bit more, heroic operations that would cost thousands of pounds in Europe can be done for next to nothing. Well over 5,000 people had lined up in the sweltering sun in a football stadium for screening day. During the ship’s stay, nearly 800 patients had come down her gangway dancing on sunshine. This was a ship that carried that rare, most valuable commodity: a cargo of mercy.


Healing Hands Raise All Boats

In 1978, Don and Deyon Stephens had a dream: bring affordable surgeries to impoverished Africa—and change lives. With 50 percent of the world’s population living within 100 miles of a shore, the Stephens family looked to the sea.

It started with a single ship. The Stephens’ retrofitted the vessel to be a floating hospital that would dock in Africa. For more than 40 years, volunteers from 49 countries have healed injuries and malformities that caused pain and, for many, could have ended in death.

As our world quickly evolves, a new ship is on the horizon—one that will blend Mercy Ships’ mission with the power of transformative technology.

Changing Lives with Digital Transformation

Chief Information Office (CIO) Chris Gregg spent four years working on one of the hospital ships alongside his wife and young son. Eighteen years later, Gregg and his IT team use their expertise to help Mercy Ships make an even larger impact.

In China, a new ship is being built from the ground up: The Global Mercy. Yet, building a ship takes time, much less a floating hospital equipped with state-of-the-art healthcare technology. And with the rapid pace of innovation, the Mercy Ships IT team had a tremendous challenge.

Setting sail in 2020, Mercy Ships' new floating hospital has six operating rooms, an intensive care unit, clinical laboratory, diagnostic radiology, hospital supply and pharmacy services.

What we do is amazing. I love being involved with how we can help those who are underserved, and I’m using technology to do that.


“We picked out Dell EMC and VMware, because we needed a platform that would take us into the future. We needed a roadmap that would allow us to scale up as we built the ship, and we went with the company that would walk the journey with us,” Gregg says.

Beyond the infrastructure, connectivity is a massive trial. Gregg and his team must contend with not only remote access limitations, but also the underdeveloped technology infrastructure in African nations. To help solve this challenge, Mercy Ships is building a state-of-the-art digital foundation, leveraging hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), software-defined data center (SDDC), networking, security and mobility innovations.

“One of the key pieces of the infrastructure is making it stable,” says Jonathan Dyson, director of enterprise infrastructure, Mercy Ships. “From the international support center in Texas, we can manage all the infrastructure here. It’s more resilient. It’s highly available. But if it goes down, we have the ability to get it back up very quickly.”

Mercy Ships' Digital Foundation

  • Improves staff efficiency and patient care
  • More ship space and room for medical staff
  • Increases IT simplicity and manageability
  • Streamlines data protection and IT deployments
  • Minimizes risk

Hope & Healing for the Forgotten Poor

For Mercy Ships, it’s not only about the technology, the ships, the volunteers or even the patients. It’s about the impact they leave behind.

“Not only do we do the surgery, but when this ship sails, we will leave behind a whole cadre of people that are trained,” Stephens says. “The goal is to increase the level of healthcare delivery in the country so it’s far stronger after we leave.”

Learn how you can help Mercy Ships bring free, first-rate medical care to families and children living in impoverished nations. Visit their website for ways to give.