Author: Stanley, Liana
Date published: May 24, 2010
As noted in an earlier issue of this magazine, the Haiti earthquake motivated a huge outpouring of support, much of it medical. The April 21, 2010 Huffington Post reported that MedShare, a medical supply recycling program based in Atlanta. Georgia, has sent over 75 tons of medical supplies to the small island country over the past few months.
One of the sources of MedShare's supplies is REMEDY. Recovered Medical Equipment for the Developing World. REMEDY was begun in 1991 by Dr. William Rosenblatt, an anesthesiology professor at Yale University School of Medicine. While participating in various volunteer medical missions in Latin America, Dr. Rosenblatt was impressed with the critical shortages of medical supplies and equipment in these poorer countries. He was already aware of the great waste in American operating rooms of these much-needed materials. "These surgical gloves, bandages and other items are sterile and well within the expiration date, but if they've been ordered into the operating room and aren't used, they wind up in a landfill. Those are the rules," he told the National Enquirer. These items, prepared for a medical procedure but not actually used, are considered nonsterile by the FDA and are required to be discarded. However, they are desperately needed and welcomed by other countries.
Dr. Rosenblatt determined to remedy this situation by starting a network to collect these supplies and get them to overseas missions organizations such as MedShare. Hundreds of nurses, students, and other healthcare workers volunteer to collect the supplies, warehouse them, and then get them to a missions group. REMEDY encourages each hospital to partner with local volunteer and community projects, though if a hospital does not have a local charity to support, REMEDY assists in finding an organization. The missions groups then distribute these supplies around the world, where they are so appreciated.
As of the middle of 2006, REMEDY at Yale alone had recovered and donated more than 50 tons of medical supplies. Multiply that by the hundreds of hospitals participating in the program (well over 600 nationally by 2009), and you can see the tremendous amount of materials these developing countries now have access to. REMEDY estimates on its website, www. remedyinc.org, that there are at least $200 million worth of supplies discarded each year that could be recovered and used to save lives overseas.
Not only does the REMEDY program provide much-needed, live-saving materials to other countries, but it also helps reduce waste here at home. As Dr. Rosenblatt told the Enquirer, "We're helping the ecology by reducing the amount of waste clogging landfills, we're helping needy people in other countries - and hospitals and workers get to participate in true acts of kindness. It's wonderful." Indeed, what a perfect remedy!
- LIANA STANLEY