Nonprofit medical supply company set for milestone (Oakland Tribune article)

MedShare’s Western Region is celebrating their 50th container shipment today – quite an achievement considering the warehouse opened in 2008. The container is going to a maternal health center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Inside Bay Area’s Chris Metinko wrote an article covering this milestone.

Nonprofit medical supply company set for milestone

By Chris Metinko

A San Leandro distribution center is celebrating a significant milestone Monday as it ships out its 50th container of badly needed medical equipment — the latest in nearly $8 million of supplies leaving the Port of Oakland to such places as Haiti, Guatemala and Ecuador.

In 2008, MedShare, a burgeoning nonprofit in Atlanta, decided to open up a Bay Area division for its operations.

“I think it shows how far we’ve come in a very short amount of time,” said Chuck Haupt, executive director of the company’s western region.

MedShare was founded in 1998, and its combined Atlanta and San Leandro operations have donated more than $70 million worth of medical supplies and equipment to hospitals and clinics in 85 economically developing countries around the world.

The company acts as a recycling and distribution center for surplus medical supplies and equipment, partnering with hospitals and health care providers to take their unused, sterile material and sending it to those in need.

Monday’s shipment is going to a maternal health clinic in Port au Prince, Haiti — the company’s second shipment to the clinic.

“We’re excited to deliver this to our partners working in Haiti” Haupt said.

In the process of making such shipments, the company also achieves its other goal — keeping medical waste out of local landfills.

Thus far, the company estimates it has saved 1.7 million cubic feet in U.S. landfills — keeping more than 3,500 tons of supplies and equipment out of garbage dumps. In 2010, the San Leandro distribution center alone helped divert 193 tons of surplus medical supplies from local landfills.

Last December, MedShare was honored by CalRecycle with a 2010 Waste Reduction award — its second.

The nonprofit’s San Leandro center on Alvarado Street collects supplies from 29 hospitals and health care clinics in the region, including Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health, Haupt said.

The company donates some of those supplies to more than a dozen safety-net clinics — which provide care for the uninsured — throughout the state, including the Davis Street Family Resource Center in San Leandro.

However, most supplies get sent overseas.

The company takes in syringes, gloves, gauze, hospital beds, suture, gowns, masks, thermometers, exam tables, laptop computers, incubators and more from its partners. Haupt said much of the material comes from medical kits that — once opened — usually are tossed by facilities, even if some of the items have not been used. The company does not collect used supplies, nor any type of pharmaceuticals.

The company, however, does accept volunteers.

Haupt said the San Leandro location has more than 5,000 volunteers, and partners with companies such as Chevron, Cisco and Wells Fargo to find volunteer opportunities for employees. High school and college students, as well as retirees, also spend time sorting supplies and making up medical boxes that will be shipped out on 40-foot-long, 8-foot-wide cargo containers.

Haupt said about 1,000 of those medical supplies boxes make up one cargo container sent out of the port — each container worth approximately $155,000.

“You can see why we are so proud of sending out our 50th,” Haupt said. “That’s a lot of medical supplies.”

For more information on MedShare, or to volunteer, go to www.medshare.org.

Thanks to the hard work of MedShare staff, volunteers, and community supporters alike for making this shipment possible!

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