Helping others in a global time of need

By The Health News Team | August 13, 2020
Illustration of hands helping the earth

Many of us have spent a day or two cleaning out our closets or storage spaces during stay-at-home orders to get rid of clutter — or at the very least, we've made mental notes to do so. But what about all the extra stuff in our offices and workspaces?

Making good use of unwanted office furniture has been a quandary for some time at Sharp HealthCare. Oftentimes, outdated or underused office equipment or furniture is stored in warehouses (at a cost) or discarded. Neither are ideal solutions.

Enter the Sharp HealthCare
Global Patient Services/Sharp International Team, or I-Team, which is made up of employees who work with Sharp hospitals, Facilities Management and Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers.

Conservation and supporting communities in need
An innovative initiative began with a simple thought: We have the equipment, who would benefit from receiving it? Together, the team realized it would be more cost-efficient and philanthropic to donate the items rather than see them go to waste or be stored indefinitely. With a humble idea and incredible intentions, Sharp HealthCare's unneeded office items are now being put to good use — rather, reuse — by countries and communities in need.

Gently used office furniture and equipment from Sharp — desks, chairs, bookshelves, cabinets, exam tables, blood draw chairs, ergonomic configurations for computer desks, lab tables, conference room tables and chairs, and even 12,000 LED light bulbs — make up the lot. But it doesn't stop at items from Sharp. Sharp vendors, such as Johnson & Johnson, have donated baby beds and other equipment in support of Sharp's mission to help others.

"By donating these items, not only are we able to provide to those in need, but we are also helping Sharp HealthCare with its goal to leave a smaller footprint on the environment and reduce costs," says Beth Catton, RN, MSN, vice president of Global Patient Services and Out of Network Departments at Sharp HealthCare. "Storing equipment offsite costs hundreds of dollars per month and disposing of usable items in our landfills doesn't make sense."

Sharp employees ship office furniture to Saipan

Sharp employees load up a box container in San Diego in preparation to ship office furniture to Saipan.

From San Diego to Mexico and Saipan
Catton says the donation program began in Mexico — to clinics where citizens and expatriates were going for care. The effort has since expanded to small clinics and classrooms throughout Baja California and more recently to Saipan, a commonwealth of the U.S., just north of Guam.

In the past year, two 40-foot shipping containers were commissioned by the government of Saipan to retrieve some of Sharp's unused office materials at the Port of San Diego. After crossing the Pacific, the items are now being distributed in communities that were among the hardest hit by 2018's Typhoon Yutu, the area's worst storm since 1935.

"It's hard to envision what community medical facilities and schools look like outside of our area, especially if you've never seen them firsthand," says Catton. "Our team has seen medical offices in San Quintín, Mexico, where the reception table is made from cardboard scraps or a torn piece of plywood. The smiles on their faces, and oftentimes tears, from these donations are transformational for everyone involved."

Catton notes that buying office equipment and furniture is not a high priority for these communities. They use every penny to help others in medical need or to provide educational materials for young children.

"What we can keep internally and reuse at Sharp, we keep," she says. "But what we don't need, why not help others by donating it? We are committed to supporting our patients, families, employees and our global community. We feel fortunate to work for Sharp HealthCare, where we are empowered to be able to provide this support. By working together, everyone achieves more."

Default Silhouette

Beth Catton


Beth Catton, RN, MSN, is the vice president of Global Patient Services and Out of Network Departments at Sharp HealthCare.

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.