NY Times Article: Salvaging Medical Cast-Offs to Save Lives

Last week,  New York Times blog author Tina Rosenberg wrote a great article about medical supply recovery organizations that are similar to MedPLUS Connect. Tina wrote about Doc 2Dock, a Brooklyn based recovery organization, and MedShare, which is based in Atlanta. The article explains the great need for supplies in under-resourced areas of the world, as well as why there are surplus supplies in the United States:

Every year, hospitals in America throw away thousands of tons of usable medical supplies and equipment — by some measures 7,000 tons a year, a value of $20 billion. The 2006 model ultrasound machine is sent to a landfill because the 2011 model has arrived. Unopened, sterile packages of supplies are thrown away because they were marked for one patient’s surgery and hospital regulations prohibit their use by another.

Hospitals are not the only ones who donate. MedShare gets 65 percent of its cargo from manufacturers or distributors of medical equipment and supplies. 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.

Yet every year, hospitals in developing countries around the world turn away patients or provide substandard care because they lack even the most basic medical equipment.

Tina also compares supply recovery organizations to food banks, which is a great analogy. For both food and medical supplies, parts of the world have great surplus, while parts of the world are in dire need. The value that MedPLUS Connect and other supply recovery organizations creates is a systemic connection.

However, connecting medical supplies to recipient hospitals presents many challenges. The article explains:

It’s a much bigger challenge to get a mammography machine no longer needed by a hospital in Atlanta to a hospital in Ecuador. You have to collect the equipment, check to make sure it’s in good condition, store it somewhere, pack it into a container and put it on a boat, get it through customs when it arrives and ship it by truck to the hospital.   You also have to make sure the hospital needs a mammography machine, enjoys consistent electricity and has personnel trained to use the machine.

What sets MedPLUS Connect apart from some other organizations is our commitment to making sure that we only send supplies that are needed and specifically requested by our recipient partners. This ensures that our shipments of medical supplies are compatible with the needs, resources and technologies of our partner hospitals in Ghana. The MedPLUS Connect team is dedicated to partnering with local health and government officials to improve the provision of quality health care in the most impoverished and underserved areas of Ghana.

Access the full text article here: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/04/salvaging-medical-cast-offs-to-save-lives/?scp=4&sq=Ghana&st=cse