By Bailey Hollingsworth
“We are not to throw away those things which can benefit our neighbor. Goods are called good because they can be used for good: they are instruments for good, in the hands of those who use them properly.” ~ Clement of Alexandria
A staggering 4 billion pounds of medical waste is generated each year from hospitals throughout the United States. Nearly 85% of that waste is considered non-infectious. In recent history, hospitals disposed of this waste through incinerators that polluted the air with harmful heavy metals and dioxins. In 1997 the EPA set new regulations governing the emissions of medical waste incinerators. This lead to a great reduction in air pollution as most incinerators were shut down but generated an increasing amount of medical waste sent to landfills. If hospitals general mission is to aid in the health of sickly people, then why do they send so much reusable surplus to rot in landfills while millions of people around the world suffer due to inadequate medical resources?
In 1998, social entrepreneurs, A.B. Short and Bob Freeman sought out an answer to this question. They introduced a new idea to hospitals that would allow them to recycle much of this surplus. By setting aside unused materials and equipment, their nonprofit company could then send them to medically underserved communities. Medshare began its mission of bringing health and hope to the world by ‘bridging the gap between surplus and need.'
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10 million children under the age of five die worldwide due to inadequate medical care. Medshare helps to reduce the number of medically underserved by redistributing to qualified healthcare facilities in the developing world medical supplies and equipment from hospitals, medical distribution companies, and individuals. “It’s been an amazing experience,” exclaims Mary Ellen Leciweski, Ecology Program Coordinator for Dominican Hospital of Santa Cruz, California, “we realize that so many people in the world need this and instead of all this going into the landfill we know that it’s helping to heal them and we are just sharing what we have.”
Medshare's success can be weighed then converted from less failed management of goods to more healthcare for all. With over a decade of service to humanity, they have shipped over 530 containers of aid overseas, saving more than 1 million cubic feet from area landfills. In 2009, 178 tons of material was shipped around the world for reuse and well over 100 containers have been scheduled for shipment this year. They have also received best volunteer charity, as well as, environment stewardship awards.
Chuck Haupt, Executive Director of Medshare Western Region, shared a particularly exhilarating experience when they received their largest single donation ever, a 36 foot mobile CT Scanner. With a grant from the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, Medshare was able to ship that unit to Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare. “Now it’s set up in a public, private partnership,” Chuck explains, “it is only the second diagnostic unit in a country of 13 million people.”
Since Medshare is a charity organization, its only source of income is through donations. It cost about $22,000 to ship a forty foot ocean-bound container of aid so they work extensively with faith based groups, corporations and individuals that are like-minded and want to make a difference in a particular community. To help in the mission of Medhsare, please click here to make a donation.