An old hospital bed is a terrible thing to waste. So are unused surgical instrument packs, drugs approaching expiration and aging but still serviceable patient monitors.
Carelift International, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based international relief organization, has distributed nearly $30 million worth of such surplus equipment and supplies to needy hospitals overseas since it was founded in 1992.
Until now most of the donations have come from Philadelphia-area healthcare facilities.
Last week, however, Carelift took a big step toward building a national network of donors by announcing a partnership with Shared Services Healthcare, an Atlanta-based group purchasing organization representing 534 hospitals and more than 400 other facilities throughout the Southeast.
Adding Shared Services to the Carelift roster will quadruple the humanitarian group's donor base.
Under the agreement, unveiled at the annual meeting of the Association for Healthcare Resource and Materials Management in San Francisco, Shared Services said its members could dispose of their surplus material through Carelift, free of charge. MEDIQ/PRN, a Pennsauken, N.J.-based equipment rental company, has agreed to provide shipping and transportation assistance through its national network of more than 100 offices.
Contributions to Carelift started trickling in last month.
"We've made two donations," said Kathy Tokar, materials manager at 72-bed Good Hope Hospital, Erwin, N.C. When she learned about Carelift, Tokar and her staff happened to be clearing out excess inventory as they prepared to install a new computer system. They resold some supplies on their own but had trouble unloading some specialty operating room instruments, requested by a surgeon no longer at the hospital.
In the past, Tokar said, she has given similar supplies to local doctors who were planning their own humanitarian trips abroad. But Tokar said she appreciated the Carelift option, reassured by the due diligence Shared Services performed.
Besides a warm feeling, executives at donor hospitals get potential brownie points with state regulators for reducing waste and boosting recycling. For-profit facilities can reap a charitable tax deduction. And facility managers everywhere can be spared the headache and expense of warehousing and ultimately disposing of outdated equipment and supplies.
"We wanted an alternative to used-equipment brokers," said Terri Warner, corporate vice president for professional services at Shared Services.
For Carelift, Shared Services is just the first step.
"We're really hoping to expand nationally," said Paul Osimo, director of environmental programs at Carelift.
In a related agreement, Siemens Medical Systems, Iselin, N.J., said it will donate used mammography equipment to Carelift for a women's health initiative that will be formally announced in October.