Then Dr. Charash stumbled across a program, aptly named Merci, at The University of Virginia Medical Center, which collects its surplus supplies and used equipment for distribution to non-profit organizations, such as the Red Cross and Project Smile. The hospital invited Dr. Charash to take a look, and he was impressed by what he saw. Since its inception in 1992, Merci has collected more than 400 tons of medical materials worth more than $80 million.
Dr. Charash then set about soliciting donations from hospitals in his own backyard, New York City. It was a tall order. He and his small staff (one doctor, five staffers) needed to gather the surplus supplies and equipment, find a place to store it, recruit volunteers to inventory the items, and then enlist trucking and shipping companies to move the donations overseas. To find his supplies, he turned to hospitals, corporations, pharmaceutical companies, and even medical meetings. He found government and non-governmental organization partners willing to help him identify hospitals in need of and willing to receive the supplies. And, once identified, his team of volunteers began the process of matching the need with the goods collected, utilizing an online ordering system to supply the hospitals in Africa.
The Clinton name helped the cause enormously. In March, 2006, Dr. Charash reported to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) “the prestige of being a CGI commitment has opened many corporate doors that I do not necessarily believe would have opened without being identified with this effort.” Those open doors, coupled with Dr. Charash’s persistence, set Doc to Dock in motion.
It is proving a worthwhile voyage. One of the first partners to jump on board was Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream, N.Y., which is a part of the 305-bed North Shore Hospital System. Mary Hynes, a perioperative nurse educator, long had been discouraged by the waste of perfectly good supplies, some never even opened or routinely discarded from operating room packs. “I embraced it the nanosecond I heard it. We’d been wanting something for so long,” Hynes says. “For years, we had been throwing out stuff. It was almost criminal.”
Super Simple System
The Doc to Dock system is simple. Bright, electric-blue recycling barrels, emblazoned with the Doc to Dock logo, are stationed in the operating room and other easily accessible areas where hospital personnel can toss surplus supplies. Wrapped, sterile items, such as latex gloves, suture packs, scalpels, and bandages, routinely are overstocked in customized sterile packs as a bit of surgical “insurance.” Anything not used is discarded, still in a sterile wrap. “If a case is cancelled or something else happens,” Hynes says, “there is a sterile field with hundreds of dollars worth of supplies, which could not be reused. Everything has to be discarded and thrown away. You can’t reprocess it because there is too much liability involved.”
When Hynes switched jobs a few months ago, she transported her enthusiasm for Doc to Dock with her to the 371-bed Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. Aided by a documentary DVD, which she showed her new colleagues, she instituted the Doc to Dock program at her new hospital. To date, the operating room and radiology department are donating excess supplies, and Hynes is planning to talk to the delivery room nurses soon.
“The barrels get filled right up,” Hynes explains. “This one hospital fills about six bins a week. Every two weeks, I call a trucker to pick them up.” Doc to Dock has arrangements with a dozen New York-area hospitals, thus far, including partnerships with the North Shore System and the Greater New York Hospital Association.