In 2010, Haiti received a flood of medical supplies and equipment donations after an earthquake ravaged the small island nation but much of the equipment was not requested or usable. Some of those donated devices, such as incubators for premature babies, would not work in Haiti’s hospitals because they required a higher electrical voltage than is standard in the country.
A new Task Force program, MedSurplus Alliance (MSA), aims to fix that problem by focusing on improving the quality and effectiveness of donated medical supplies and equipment by promoting medical donation best practices and improving systems for that purpose. MSA was formed in 2012 and joined The Task Force earlier this year.
The alliance, a cross-sector network of medical product donation stakeholders, ensures that donated items are requested and appropriate for health care settings. One of the ways it does that is to provide a code of conduct and accreditation training to medical surplus recovery organizations so that they are adhering to WHO guidelines for donated medical products.
MSA Director Lori Warrens said they are helping shift the medical donations paradigm from donor-driven to recipient-focused. “We want to be sure that what is being sent is really what is needed and can be used by the recipient. We connect quality products headed to a landfill to the people who need them.”
Patrick O’Carroll, MD, who heads The Task Force’s health systems strengthening sector, said MSA is the first Task Force program that supports clinical care organizations around the world. “MSA provides us with an opportunity to broaden our work in health systems strengthening to include clinical care,” he said.
One of MSA’s roles is helping ensure countries have adequately trained personnel to use and maintain donated supplies and equipment. MSA joins three other programs – TEPHINET, Public Health Informatics Institute, and the African Health Workforce Project – within The Task Force’s health systems strengthening sector that support health workforce development.
Both Warrens and O’Carroll see opportunity for leveraging The Task Force’s expertise in supply chain and logistics to help strengthen MSA’s work. “The Task Force has long been in the business of working with pharmaceutical companies to manage large-scale drug and vaccine donation programs for eliminating diseases, “said O’Carroll. “So having MSA steward other much-needed medical resources through its MSROs aligns well with our other programmatic activities.”
Warrens noted that although MSA is not focused on disease control and elimination, its relationship with clinical care institutions around the world could prove invaluable in times of a disease outbreak. “We work in the same places as some of the other Task Force programs and can contribute in a unique way. Sometimes, the medicine is there but no syringes. We can provide some of those missing pieces.”