As the mother of three young boys, I find that I am often engaged in discussion (sometimes rather heated) about the importance of sharing. It doesn’t matter if it’s Skittles candy, Legos, or a favorite T-shirt, the reality is that often it’s hard to share something that you would prefer to use or consume yourself. And yet, as MedShare co-founder A.B. Short says, there really is usually enough to go around. This is the whole basis for the MedShare model: getting U.S. medical surplus to the places where it is most needed around the world.
Like most developing countries, the health care delivery system here in Guatemala is a combination of national, government funded facilities alongside private hospital and clinics. MedShare works with any facility as long as they serve the most needy patients in their area and have the capacity to use the type of supplies and equipment we can provide.
Our shipments come in 40-foot containers filled with approximately 1,000 boxes of consumable supplies (gloves, gauze, syringes, etc.) and 20 or so pieces of equipment. While a full-scale hospital can easily use the full contents of a container, a smaller clinic just doesn’t need that volume of supplies. And yet, those clinics are often the places with the most need for supplies. So, what to do?
Well, sometimes, the MedShare team is able to find just the right partners on the ground who help us weave together a wonderful distribution of supplies to a region. In other words, they share! I have been lucky enough to see this system in action here in Guatemala over the past two days.
Hospitalito Atitlán is a private, 16 bed hospital that sees about 800 outpatients a month with 200 monthly ER visits. They are open 24/7 with a full emergency room and two operating rooms. They have both Guatemalan and American doctors on staff and provide training to local midwives and are building a diabetes education program along with several other local organizations. Hospitalito is providing high-quality, low or no-cost care, and so, the supplies that MedShare can provide allow them to care for more patients and extend their services.
When MedShare shipped a container to this hospital earlier in 2012, the staff could have easily decided to keep all of the supplies for use at the hospital. But they didn’t. Instead they contacted the medical staff of several surrounding government and private hospitals and clinics and guess what? They shared about 40% of the shipment. And that’s a wonderful thing.
Over the past two days, I have visited several of the sites that benefited from this sharing including Santiago Centro de Salud and the National Hospital of Sololá.
While I have received many hugs of thanks and enthusiastic exclamations of “muchas gracias” from these additional recipients, the credit really goes to the leadership of Hospitalito Atitlán for having the vision, the compassion and the willingness to do the hard work involved in sharing. Well done! I think their mothers would be very proud, don’t you?