Everyday, the United States healthcare industry generates an astounding amount of medical surplus and without intervention, the surplus is destined to end up in landfills. Meeting humanitarian need with surplus, Global Links, a Pittsburgh-based medical relief and development organization, gives an entirely new meaning to the phrase, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
The usable medical waste that the U.S. health care industry generates is a treasure to communities in under-developed nations that lack the equipment and supplies necessary to provide even the most basic care to their patients, resulting in needless suffering and deaths.
How Global Links Works
Global Links focuses mostly on countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and developed unique partnerships with the Pan American Health Organization, World Health Organization, in-country Ministries of Health and the medical and administrative leadership of public health systems.
Their staff makes yearly assessment visits to their nine program countries, meeting with local health authorities, medical personnel, and other health organization officials. In the U.S., hospitals save surplus medical supplies and equipment for Global Links trucks to regularly pick up and transport to the office/sorting facility for the Medical Supply Assistants to sort and shelve the donations appropriately.
From the beginning, Global Links has relied heavily on volunteers to accomplish the majority of the labor-intensive sorting, preparation and packing of the recovered materials. The volunteers sort the donations by size, type and expiration date, ensuring they are in working order.
Chris Meyer, a Global Links volunteer and Jefferson Award winner teamed up with Global Links to recycle usable wheelchairs and donate them specifically to areas in need in the Caribbean.
“I liked how the organization tied itself to a local mission of keeping things out of our landfills by reusing them in countries where people would die without them. I started out packing boxes of donated items before it evolved into what it is now.” Meyer told the Pittsburg Gazette.
Gauging the Impact
Since its founding in 1989, Global Links has shipped over 410 tractor-trailer loads of an desperately needed medical materials to facilities in developing countries. The estimated total of value of these loads exceeds $173 million. Global Links has been cited by PAHO/WHO as an “important partner and ally in our strategic planning efforts in the region.”
This is not only good news for the developing countries but also good news for the Pittsburgh area. Global Links has been nationally recognized and awarded for its environmental impact and sustainability, redirecting more than six million pounds of medical materials to developing countries that would have piled-up in landfills.
The impact of Global Links is unparalleled. On December 9, 2014, Global Links’s posted a photo on their Facebook page with the caption, “These children had life-saving heart surgery thanks to suture donations from Global Links!”
On their Twitter handle, they tweeted a photo of a newborn baby with the caption, “@GlobalLinks3: We are the only group that donates sutures to this hospital in Malawi. No sutures=no surgery.”
– Eastin Shipman