Christina Quint, MA, is the sustainability analyst for Inova’s Office of Sustainability. In this role, she provides programmatic support, manages sustainability communication and marketing, and oversees environmental data collection and analysis to ensure optimal operational performance across the Inova system.
Imagine that after months of preparing for surgery, your stretcher is getting rolled into the hospital’s operating room. In this moment, knowing your surgical team is ready to tackle any challenge that may arise is paramount.
Rest assured, they are prepared. As they prep for each case, surgical teams take every precaution to ensure they can respond quickly to any situation. This means that the surgical kit for your procedure will contain extra supplies for dealing with unforeseen complications. Those surplus supplies can save lives when a procedure takes an unexpected turn.
But when your procedure does go as planned, those unused supplies will be discarded as a result of hospital regulations. Those potentially life-saving materials—ranging from surgical gloves and sponges to IV fluids and medications — add up to about $1,000 per surgery, and constitute much of the 2,000 tons of waste generated daily by hospitals across the country.
The sheer volume of unused supplies that end up in landfills is detrimental to the environment, as well as to people around the world who desperately need such supplies. That’s why Inova and a local hospital supply recovery program are working to connect those materials with the people who need them.
Connecting Resources with Needs
Minimizing waste is a top priority for keeping costs down and promoting sustainability in U.S. hospitals. Inova takes this commitment a step further by giving a second life to unused medical supplies. For years, Inova has partnered with Brother’s Brother Foundation (BBF), a nonprofit that collects those supplies and sends them to healthcare workers doing medical mission trips around the world.
BBF has provided more than $4 billion worth of medical items, pharmaceuticals, textbooks, food, seeds and other humanitarian supplies since 1958. In northern Virginia, Inova has consistently been a leading medical supply donor to the foundation. In 2016 alone, we donated 98,870 pounds of medical supplies and equipment, which were used in 291 mission trips in 52 countries.
“What makes Inova’s donation program so robust is the enthusiasm and engagement of its employees,” says Thad Adkins, program director of BBF Virginia.
A Lifeline in Times of Crises
Medical supplies donated by health systems like Inova are especially valuable in times of crisis. After Hurricane Matthew in 2016, BBF Virginia airlifted 818 pounds of medical supplies to Hospital Saint Croix in Leogane, Haiti. Those supplies included water purification tablets, which produced more than 3,000 liters of clean water.
The shipment also included IV solutions and isolation gowns, which were used by cholera clinic workers to treat patients suffering from waterborne diseases. “These materials could have easily ended up in a landfill,” Adkins says “But because at Inova, these unused supplies are put in a donation bin instead of a trash can, they are able to save lives in times of crisis.”
Barry Byer, MD, a longtime client of BBF, has led medical mission teams to Honduras for the last 18 years. He says that donated supplies free up funds to purchase even more supplies, magnifying the effects of the program. “Our impact on the lives of the needy in Honduras has been greatly enhanced by the critically needed supplies and equipment Brother’s Brother has provided – much of which was donated by Inova Health System,” he says.
Learn more about Inova’s Sustainability journey.