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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Petersburg Hospital Receives Supplies After Yearlong Wait

ST. PETERSBURG -- A customs logjam that has kept 18 tons of donated medical supplies from reaching a children's hospital for more than a year appears to be breaking up after one of four containers was finally cleared.


The equipment, intended to treat children with critical congenital heart defects, was impounded by customs authorities at St. Petersburg's port last year after a bag of white, powdered antibiotics not listed on the shipping manifest was found in one of the containers.


But last week the first container was released, and officials at Children's Hospital No. 1 are hopeful that the remaining three are soon to follow.


"When we get the rest, it will be like a holiday," said Anatoly Kagan, chief doctor at the hospital.


"This has been very difficult, of course. But I'm hoping that now the Americans know what documents will be demanded and the next time things will go smoother."


The equipment, valued at $900,000, was sent by the Heart to Heart Children's Alliance of Oakland, California, which has been sending aid to St. Petersburg for the past eight years.


While the vital goods were unexpectedly stuck in a warehouse, the hospital had to struggle to make ends meet. Patients were put on reduced rations to free up money for supplies, and parents were asked to bring in extra food. The staff also sterilized and reused equipment that was designed to be disposable.


The first container released included both medical equipment and basic supplies, said Tatyana Kushnarova, who runs the supply department at the hospital.


The problems began in June 1996 when a customs official found the bag of antibiotics. While the donors and the hospital fought to work out that glitch, three more containers arrived in August. Hospital officials said that shipment became mired in bureaucracy when the Health Ministry twice lost documentation provided by the hospital