How Donated Unusable Medical Equipment Impacts Under Developed Regions

medical_equipment

Julian Omidi discusses the impact the donation of unusable equipment has upon medical clinics in under developed regions.

Many hospitals and private organizations donate their unused supplies and medical equipment to clinics and nonprofit health initiatives in remote, undeveloped locations in order to give them the opportunities to perform the best and most modern treatments that they can.  Without these donations, many medical centers in poor regions wouldn’t have access to life saving drugs, gloves, sterilization tools, swabs, bandages and numerous other items that are essential for proper medical care.

However, there are many items that, although delivered with the best intentions, wind up being thrown away.  These items clog up landfills, waste valuable time for volunteer workers who have to sort through the equipment and cost quite a bit of money in shipment fees.[1]

Medical supply companies and hospitals who wish to donate equipment more often than not believe that health care centers are glad to get anything they can.  While this is largely true, it is unfortunate that the donations aren’t given much consideration.  Heavy electronic devices are sent without their instruction manuals, or even with all of the appropriate parts and accessories.  Machines that require consumables – fuel, water and electricity, which simply aren’t available in extremely deprived regions – are sent and are never operational.  Machines that are operational can’t be fixed when something goes wrong, and there is no one qualified to make repairs.  As a result, clinics are overrun with heavy equipment that is, essentially, junk.

Even the equipment that is useable can put tremendous strain upon delicate operations.  Clinics that operate with generators or old electrical systems can have most of their useable power eaten up by energy-sapping equipment.  This can actually put people’s lives in jeopardy.

In a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), it was found that only between 10 and 30 percent of all donated equipment is ever used by the receiving hospitals.

How can foreign hospitals and medical suppliers ensure their donations are put to good use?  They can send only what all clinics, without exception, need.  Gloves, crutches, bandages, sanitation materials, feminine hygiene products, bandages and other supplies that developed world hospitals take for granted are desperately needed in the undeveloped world.

Another way donators can save themselves and the recipients time and money is to go through all of the equipment slated for donation and determine whether or not it actually works, if the parts and accessories are available and if the instructions are included.

The third and most effective method for donating successfully is asking the healthcare workers in the clinic exactly what they need and what equipment their facilities can handle.  If the donating party knows that the region has no one available to repair nonfunctioning equipment, or if the repair service is only qualified to work on the devices from a certain manufacturer, then they won’t waste resources shipping devices that cannot be maintained.

Many health centers in the developing world exist using exclusively donated equipment and supplies, so it is crucial that hospital and medical supply services keep giving.  However, it is no less important to donate only what can be used effectively.

By Julian Omidi


[1] Jones, Andrew: Medical Equipment Donated to Developing Nations Usually Ends Up on the Junk Heap Scientific American 5/6/2013 http ://www. scientificamerican .com/article/medical-equipment-donated-developing-nations-junk-heap/

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Filed under Charity, Julian Omidi, Poverty

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