With a new MRI and four new anesthesia units, GRMC had several pieces of medical equipment looking for homes. One of the anesthesia units is on its way to Bolivia, South America. The old MRI trailer unit also went to a warmer climate- to Guatemala in Central America this past year.
GRMC's leadership seeks ways to reuse older equipment in a way that brings real positive support for patients and physicians in underdeveloped countries.
The anesthesia unit found its way to Bolivia via George Lederhaas, MD, who volunteers with Solidarity Bridge. Obsolete medical equipment sits in warehouses around the country since there's really no market for this older technology yet still fully functional equipment. The Solidarity Bridge website lists needs and missioner opportunities at www.solidaritybridge.org.
The MRI that served GRMC patients rolled out of its long standing parking space as it headed to Guatemala.
"This anesthesia unit has been well maintained but the new technology offers many new features. Solidarity Bridge connects medical equipment to the medical staff in other countries where it is considered modern technology," Lederhaas says. "They have many well trained local physicians and nurses but they lack supplies. We take 100 pounds of supplies with each missioner. Plus once everyone or two years we send a shipping container with additional materials."
The older units can find a good home in Bolivia, explains Lederhaas. Older anesthesia units as well as other equipment cannot be serviced in the United States but parts can be ordered off the Internet quite easily in other countries so the units can be fixed. He explains that it is easier to fix the 30-year-old equipment than the newer hi-tech equipment. GRMC's anesthesia unit was nearly 20 years old and though not in use at GRMC it could find a new life in Bolivia.
Lederhaas has taken eight trips to Bolivia with Solidarity Bridge, since 2006. "The people are so appreciative of the supplies. There are very talented providers but getting the supplies and materials to them is a real challenge. Delays in customs, extravagant expediting fees, and corruption can all limit. We've learned how to work in their culture to help the people of rural Bolivia. Solidarity Bridge has been chipping away to make small changes to the system and getting the materials to the people who need it."
Deb Reding, GRMC's director of surgical services, believes this is a smart way to disperse the equipment. "We donated the unit to Solidarity Bridge since it has no resale value here in the United States. We felt this meets our mission and we don't incur cost to dispose of the unit."
Lederhaas added that when the unit does wear out, parts will be taken to repair other units. After that, the metal will be salvaged and any usable material in the unit will be recycled or remanufactured. Nothing goes to waste if possible.
GRMC to Guatemala
From the rolling corn fields of Iowa to the lush grassland of Guatemala it's a long trip for the old Magnetic Resonate Imaging unit that served GRMC residents for many years. In December 2010, GRMC installed a new 1.5 telsa MRI unit inside the radiology unit. As good stewards of our resources and caring for the environment, GRMC administration and the radiology director were challenged with finding the best way to dispose of the unit.
Consideration for environmentally conscious options directed Gina Fuller, GRMC director of radiology, to Blue Vista Medical, a company that coordinates needs of overseas healthcare providers to imaging equipment in the United States.
Nick and, his brother, David Palmer, Blue Vista Medical co-owners, specialize in exporting imaging equipment to underserved areas. In the case of GRMC's old MRI unit, the need was in the Central American country of Guatemala.
"You must realize that in rural areas of many third world counties, such as Guatemala, they have absolutely no diagnostic services," Nick Palmer explains. "The MRI unit at GRMC was fully functional and really in good condition. To a physician who has no diagnostic equipment, this is a fabulous addition to their medical practice. It can greatly improve a doctor's ability to diagnose patient's conditions."
The supply of obsolete imaging equipment grows in the United States, according to Palmer. "Hospitals across the country have rooms full of old but functional equipment, especially imaging equipment. Our company puts the overseas buyers in contact with a hospital that has equipment to sell," Palmer says.