Friday, August 26, 2005


"Sharing Can Make a World of Difference" is the motto of MedShare International, a nonprofit organization based in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia.

MedShare collects medical surplus that is vitally needed in other countries worldwide. It sorts, evaluates, classifies, labels and then redistributes these supplies to the recipient healthcare institutions and medical teams. It also supports local organizations concerned with health services.

MedShare was founded in late 1998, and since that time it has shipped millions and millions of dollars worth of unused medical supplies to economically developing countries. As I have said in another article, this sharing of surplus medical supplies provides U.S. hospitals with an environmentally sound alternative to sending much needed medical to trash dumps while providing them to hospitals and clinics in the developing world that can use them.

MedShare carefully tailors each shipment of supplies to meet the need, as articulated by the recipient health care organization, in order to ensure that the donated material, equipment and supplies conform to the level of medical sophistication and infrastructure of the economically developing country where the recipient is located. The reason for this care is that there can be a drastic difference between the technical environments of the donor and the recipient. Once the supplies are delivered, MedShare "maintains an ongoing dialogue with recipients, to ensure that materials shipped will be useful and effective." One example of this is that biomedical equipment, (which is evaluated and often repaired by MedShare's workshop) is only shipped to hospitals that have the technology, training and resources to use and maintain the item.

MedShare's web site says that while the U. S. government regulations require hospitals in the United States to discard "more than $6.25 billion worth of unused medical supplies and equipment each year" thousands of patients in economically developing nations go without medical care for lack of this same material. This ranges from ranging from "sutures, syringes and sterile gloves to medical equipment like stethoscopes, pulse oximeters, ophthalmoscopes, electrosurgical units, anesthesia units, infant incubators and even hospital beds."

And while this equipment may seem "outdated" for a "state-of-the-art" U.S. hospital it is still very much useful in providing routine, or even acute, care.

MedShare gets its donated items by collecting, on a weekly basis, supplies and equipment from 14 hospitals and outpatient centers in the Greater Atlanta Metropolitan area. Additionally, more than 50 hospitals around the country partner with MedShare in order to grow its network of donors. Also, most of the major hospital supply companies in the Atlanta area donate supplies as well. In most cases these supplies would be discarded due to industry regulations and most likely end up in landfills or incinerators, but in all cases, they are still useable.
MedShare is funded by support from individuals, foundations, religious groups, civic organizations and corporations. And while MedShare currently receives no federal support, it is registered with USAID as a Private Volunteer Organization. Many of the foundations, schools, individuals, religious groups, civic organizations and corporations that fund MedShare also sponsor medical mission teams and shipments of 40-foot cargo containers of supplies. However, sometimes the recipient institution pays for the shipping costs. Non-profits organizations often provide operation support as well as shipping, medical supplies and equipment. Additionally MedShare receives inkind donations and it relies heavily on volunteers. The volunteers (which MedShare says are the "lifeblood" of the organization) are students, professionals and retirees. They come from churches, civic and special needs groups. Health care professionals and bio-medical engineers also volunteer. MendSend says that it can even use the assistance of children over ten if they are accompanied by an adult.

The organization distributes its donations based on the degree of need, appropriateness of request, ability of institution to handle the logistics of the donation. All of the recipients, of course, serve the poor who would not otherwise have access to quality medical supplies. MedShare also requires the presence of a partner organization t in the local area to monitor the use and effectiveness of the donated supplies.

The hospitals that receive donations from MedShare are required to complete and return detailed evaluation forms so that MedShare can evaluate the impact of its donations. In addition to the forms supplied by the recipients, and other forms of measurement, MedShare receives reports from independent evaluators in order to evaluate its impact.

MedShare has operations around the world, even the United States, but a short list of some of the countries in Africa and the Caribbean that have received help from this very efficient organization includes: Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Haiti and Jamaica.

There is so much to talk about with MedShare, and so little time to do it. So, I am going to rely on you, dear reader, to go to MedShare's web site, read it and then give some thought to how you can help them help others. You can find there web site here: MedShare

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