It’s clear how a drug shortage can affect any hospital. From the lack of antibiotics to treat patients, to the lack of lead aprons to protect against radiation, a shortage of essential products and equipment will always be devastating.
But could the opposite be true? While the idea of medical surplus may seem positive at first glance, it can also cause significant problems. The sad truth is that excess medical services are driving US hospitals to spend an estimated $ 765 billion a year on used equipment. This is a shocking number, and understanding why this is happening is the key to solving the problem.
Causes of medical waste
Medical waste is a big problem for two important reasons. The first, of course, is that when usable consumables are thrown away, it robs the potential patient of access to those perfectly good materials. The second major impact of wasted health care is that it increases operating costs as health centers continually order more supplies and equipment. At a time when healthcare is becoming more expensive, this is a major concern.
There are several reasons why so much money is spent regularly. The operating room is a big culprit. It is estimated that around two tons of supplies are lost each day after surgeries. The researchers who conducted this study reported that nearly $ 1,000 worth of medical supplies were opened and discarded without being used in each procedure. Sponges, towels and gloves are the most common items thrown away, but more expensive items such as screws are also thrown away. The bottom line is that once the product is opened, it is “contaminated” and cannot be used in any other procedure. However, just being more careful with supplies can help reduce this waste significantly.
Another big culprit of this waste is the constant modernization of equipment. As soon as new models enter the industry, the old models, even if they still work perfectly, are thrown away in favor of the new ones. Aside from the fact that consumables are thrown away after being in the operating room, so are all consumables that enter the patient room, even if they have not been opened. Even if a hospital changes providers, it can result in a drop in supplies from the previous provider due to the contamination protocol. There are simply too many ways to waste precious material.
Hospitals have several recommended steps to help reduce waste. Nurses and surgeons should communicate which materials the surgeon prefers so that only the correct ones are brought into the operating room first. A feedback system in departments can also be useful so that each department can track the use of its consumables against its peers.
Perhaps the best and most realistic solution is for excess medical supplies to be given to those in need. Elizabeth McLellan, founder of the nonprofit for global health, only heads up this for 11 years. Her organization collects the surplus supplies and ships them to those in need around the world. They play a role in the provision of health care and also oversee medical training in developing countries. They are currently participating in Project 10,000, which is dedicated to providing kits for safe and sterile childbirth and newborn care.
Of course, a large organization doesn’t have to make a difference. Even humans can have a big impact on this problem. Surplus medicines from the home can be given to those in need and of equal value. Health care providers can also donate usable materials from damaged containers that would otherwise be thrown away. Losing excess medical equipment is a serious problem, but any of us who want it can help.