16 March 2017

Hospital waste

I can verify from personal experience that the following account is basically true:
This, however, isn’t a story of about the crippling price of medical supplies. This is about the high cost of medical supplies that hospitals throw away.

On a recent snowy day the warehouse’s 65-year-old proprietor, Elizabeth McLellan, gave an indignant accounting: She yanked a urinary catheter out of one bin. It’s unopened and has an expiration date of July 2018. “There’s no reason to get rid of this.” A box of 30 new feeding bags has an August 2019 expiration date. The same type sells on Amazon.com for $129.

That surgical stapler? It’s unopened. The same model sells online for $189. And McLellan simply shook her head over a set of a dozen long thin laparoscopic surgery instruments that some hospital discarded. Similar used tools can go for hundreds of dollars.

“There’s nothing wrong with these, nothing wrong with any of these,” she said.

Ten years ago, McLellan, a registered nurse, shocked to see what hospitals were tossing out, began asking them to give her their castoffs instead. In 2009 she launched Partners for World Health, a nonprofit that now has four warehouses throughout Maine. Today, she and hundreds of volunteers collect medical equipment and supplies from a network of hospitals and medical clinics, sort them and eventually ship containers full of them to countries like Greece, Syria and Uganda...

MedShare, a Georgia-based nonprofit more than 10 times the size of Partners, sent 156 containers of discarded medical supplies to developing countries last year, each one worth as much as $175,000...

McLellan started her nonprofit after watching patient rooms being cleaned out at Maine Medical Center, where she was a nurse administrator. When patients were discharged, hospital staff threw out everything, including unopened supplies. McLellan got permission from the hospital’s CEO to put out bins to save the discarded items.

A year and a half later, she’d gathered more than 11,000 pounds of supplies and equipment in her house. Today, Partners has three paid employees — McLellan is a volunteer — and an annual budget of $357,000, most of it from individual donations. Hundreds of volunteers pitch in. Similar nonprofits have sprung up around the country...

And those pallets of adult diapers stacked high on a shelf? He sells the same type at his pharmacy for $11.99 per package or more. Farren recalled one time they picked up about 100 unopened packages of diapers from the home of a patient who had died. “It was ridiculous,” he said.
Further details at Salon.


  1. Yup. Very wasteful. We recycle clean paper, plastic and wrappers, easily half of the trash, but we're a small place. Most hospitals don't bother. It's a huge resource of materials and supplies that could be used.

    1. That hospitals can afford to waste so much and still stay in business is strong evidence that they don't face much competitive market pressure.

  2. Not to mention the tons of food we waste and discard each and every day, while people starve to death.

    Or the exorbitant amount of energy wasted just with lights left on that no one is using. I remember my first trip to Europe when I first experienced motion detector lights in office buildings- back in the early eighties...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...