"Best used by" is a common stamp on food, medications and equipment. Hundreds of national, state and local regulations ensure the safe use and consumption of nearly everything we use or put into our bodies. Expiration dates are affixed to most consumables; and very strict rules are applied to the use — and reuse — of all sorts of health care materials.
"Once a scalpel has laid on a surgical tray — even if it is never removed from its sanitary seal — a hospital here is required by law to throw it away," says Renee Huslin, sustainability officer for Sharp HealthCare. "But to a doctor in Uganda, using and reusing the same scalpel until it dulls, that new unused tool is invaluable, if not lifesaving."
Many tons of used or "expired" medical materials go to landfills each year. But in San Diego, a small nonprofit organization works diligently to divert that "trash," and place it in the hands of caregivers and patients who desperately need supplies.
Ssubi is Hope has collected more than 25 tons of discarded but safe and usable supplies from Sharp HealthCare facilities, and distributed them to clinics around the world. Operating from a warehouse supplied by Coleman University, Ssubi founder Laura Luxemburg and her team of volunteers forage weekly through the refuse of hospitals, clinics and home health patients, collecting whatever can still be used by foreign doctors and nurses.
Supplies gathered include wheelchairs, gurneys, IV poles, exam tables, walkers, lifts, blood pressure cuffs, scales, trays, crutches, office supplies and unused gloves and gowns. If it can be cleaned, repaired and reused, they take it to the warehouse.
"We're working with clinicians who care for patients in the poorest regions of Uganda, Haiti, the Philippines and Mexico," explains Luxemburg. "A box of gloves that no longer meets U.S. regulatory regulations is a godsend to a nurse who washes her same gloves over and over between patients; a rehab patient would much rather use a 'pre-owned' walker than lie all day in bed for lack of that simple equipment. These are things that the clinics cannot afford to purchase."
Ssubi is Hope relies upon local volunteers to collect, sort, repair and package collected materials; Sharp HealthCare employees have participated through the Sharp Lends a Hand volunteer program. Ssubi also relies on individual and corporate donations to keep the lights on, fill the collection truck's gas tank and — most importantly — pay for the shipping crates that carry materials to their overseas destinations.
"It's a labor of love," says Luxemburg. "The whole thing started because I wanted to make a difference, and to let my kids know that you don't have to be a rock star or movie star to make a difference in this world; you can also be a soccer mom."
For the media: To learn more about Sharp HealthCare's collaboration with Ssubi is Hope, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.