Large U.S. hospitals throw away $15 million in sterile, unused surgical supplies annually that easily could be donated to hospitals and clinics in developing countries, a Johns Hopkins University study published online in the World Journal of Surgery found.
Surgical supplies are generally bundled, but hospitals throw away any unused items from the bundles, according to an article published by Hub, the Johns Hopkins online news site. The most commonly discarded items were gauze, disposable syringes, sutures and surgical towels.
Johns Hopkins donates its unused surgical supplies to two surgical centers in Ecuador through a program known as Supporting Hospitals Abroad with Resources and Equipment (SHARE), Healthday News reported. The investigators tracked 19 high-demand surgical items their hospital donated over three years, then extrapolated the amount and value of surgical supplies presumably discarded by 232 U.S. surgical centers with similar caseloads in a year, the university article reported.
"We hope the results of our study will be a wakeup call for hospitals and surgeons across the country to rectify this wasteful practice by developing systems that collect and ship unused materials to places that desperately need them," lead investigator Richard Redett, M.D., a pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgeon, said in the Hub article.
The study also concluded that collecting and donating unused surgical supplies would reduce medical waste, and the cost and environmental impact of disposal.
The healthcare industry creates 6,600 tons of waste every day, often combining nonhazardous waste with medical waste, which costs 20 times more to process.