We all know about waste. Food waste. Resource waste. However, one thing that might not even occur to us is the amount of medical waste that happens, perfectly good medical supplies and equipment that go to waste every day. The World Health Organization (WHO) “estimates that more than 10 million children under the age of five die in the developing world due to inadequate medical care.” We waste medical resources, and yet, there are children (and adults) in need of medical care. This certainly seems like a situation that could be addressed, and one such organization that is trying to help is MedShare. They collect and redistribute medical supplies and equipment that are going to go to waste.
Founded in 1998 by A.B. Short and Bob Freeman, MedShare started out as a way to help underserved populations and addressed the environmental impact that medical waste was having on our planet. In an interview with NPR’s From Scratch, A.B. Short explains that there is pressure for hospitals to have the most up to date equipment, and, therefore, perfectly good supplies and equipment end up destined for a landfill. Additionally, there are what are called surgical packs, which contain equipment packaged for a specific type of operation or procedure. In this instance the issue is that not all the instruments might be used during that procedure. The hospital cannot use them for another patient because the pack has already been billed to the first patient, so the unused remainder ends up in the trash. MedShare has partnered with hospitals to collect that equipment and to ship it internationally, thereby keeping perfectly good product out of the landfill and enabling it to be used for a good cause.
A.B. Short also discusses how the health care industry is starting to become more “green.” Many hospitals now have sustainability councils which oversee how their hospital can be more environmentally friendly. MedShare creates a way to do that. It is a “win win” situation.
MedShare started in Atlanta, Georgia, and first approached hospitals in that area. It has since grown into three regional centers: Headquarters and Southeast Regional Center in Decatur, Georgia; Northeast Regional Center in Secaucus, New Jersey; Western Regional Center in San Leandro, California.
One critical aspect of MedShare’s approach is that they do not just assume any and all leftover equipment is needed by hospitals overseas. Instead they have hospitals order exactly what they need. This way they are not wasting supplies and equipment that is not needed. Hospitals apply online and are assessed for their needs. They are then part of the network where they can order supplies from the inventory that MedShare has in stock.
From their website here is one success story:
For the first time, Isaie Jeanty Maternity Hospital in Haiti was able to give this premature baby a chance at life with the use of an incubator donated through MedShare’s surplus recovery program. Previously, an at-risk infant born at this hospital would have been dangerously transported in a shoebox on a motor vehicle to a nearby facility that may have access to an incubator. MedShare was able to give doctors and nurses the courage to take this leap, a family will hold their baby for the first time, and the joys of new life will be experienced. Thank you, Northside Hospital, for your donation of this incubator! (http://www.medshare.org/locations/southeast)
By 2012, MedShare had “diverted an estimated 1.5 million pounds of medical surplus from landfills” (http://medshare.org/about-us/story), a remarkable feat.
To help this worthy cause please click here to see their page and learn how to help.