Have you ever wondered what happens to all of the unused and disposable products that hospitals have like cotton balls, gauze, tubing, plastic suction bottles, surgical packs, etc. – do they just throw them away? Probably, but what a huge waste and according to Healthcare Without Harm, “U.S. hospitals generate more than two million tons of medical waste each year; much of that waste is unused medical supplies and equipment.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization estimates that “more than 10 million children under the age of five die in the developing world due to inadequate medical care.”
That’s an outrage, you might say… But someone is doing something about all the waste and there are several somebody’s; organizations like medshare.org, doc2dock.org, globallinks.org, and projectcure.org.
According to MedShare’s website, annually it:
Collects more than $93 million worth of life-saving medical supplies and equipment
Saves in excess of 2 million cubic feet from ending up in area landfill sites
Receives medical products from hundreds of hospitals and corporations
Collects over 15,000 pieces of equipment
But there’s plenty of room for growth across the U.S. Healthcare landscape: “Only a small percentage of hospitals have an organized way to deal with surplus equipment and supplies and donating surplus goods is intrinsically attractive to hospitals because it serves the added value of reducing the carbon footprint each hospital leaves behind.”
Surprisingly, hospitals aren’t the only ones who donate. MedShare gets 65 percent of its cargo from manufacturers or distributors of medical equipment and supplies, but a small puncture in a carton may mean that a box can’t be shipped to a paying customer even if the supplies are still individually wrapped and sterile. So a donation can come from just about any industry – it just takes some awareness and a little extra help to get needed cargo from A to B, and finally on to C.
For example, surplus supply groups like MedShare or Doc2Dock may collect donations at central warehouses, where volunteers — sometimes groups filled with primarily high school students — sort, pack and prepare supplies for their final destinations. The donations may be bar coded, packed, and stored until they are ready to be shipped. Doc2Dock has only a small warehouse in New York, but Wal-Mart lends a helping hand by picking up the cost of shipping the rest to Doc2Dock’s warehouses in Tennessee.
In the Doc2Dock example, the supplies and equipment are packed in a 40-foot container. A typical container from Doc2Dock would carry “12 hospital beds, two delivery tables, an operating room table, an anesthesia machine, and 800 boxes of supplies such as syringes, IV fluids and lines, gauze and gloves.” Sonogram machines for prenatal care are a frequent request, as are anesthesia units.
It’s amazing to know all of this love and care is going on behind the scenes!!
By simultaneously saving lives and making the world a better place these organizations and their volunteers reaffirm my belief that there are truly unsung heroes left in the world – thank God for them!!
To become an unsung hero:
Salvaging Medical Cast-Offs to Save Lives
By TINA ROSENBERG
MedShare Honored For Reducing Waste, Saving Lives
Exeter Hospital Joins Reuse Effort (press release 4/22/2012)
Solving the ‘Last Mile’ Challenges of Social Enterprise (knowledge@whartontoday)