By Jim Fedele
I find it astonishing that even with my best efforts to sell and trade used medical equipment, I always seem to have a storage problem. No matter how hard I try to get rid of our old equipment, there always seem to be more. I swear sometimes our storage areas hold secret powers that multiply old equipment every time I am not looking. I can’t imagine what my colleagues must be faced with that don’t put the same effort in to this that I do. So, what does one do after all options to sell or trade used medical equipment have been exhausted? What do you do with what is left? Donation is a viable option.
I know what it feels like to take the time to put together a list of equipment to send out for bid. Painstakingly looking and listing every model, manufacturer, serial number and software revision into a nice spreadsheet and sending it off to equipment resellers is a huge task. The reality is that I will only get offers on a very small portion of the list. It is a very deflating experience to spend so much time for so little return.
Most of the regular resellers I use take all my equipment, they know that I just need to get rid of it, but sometimes it is hard for me to let good equipment go that is just going to be scrapped. It is especially hard knowing that there are countries and people that would take anything that was in good working order.
Donating your unwanted “invaluable” equipment can be a very rewarding experience. I find it to be a win-win for all parties involved. However, there are many things that must be considered before donating equipment. I always try to ensure the equipment is in good working order before sending it away. But my good friend Dana Smith at KMA helped me realize that there are many more items to consider before donating equipment.
As he puts it, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” His discussion with me helped me realize that as Americans we do not automatically consider that basic services like electricity, water and shelter may not be reliable or even exist in other countries. Also, technical expertise my not be readily available for the installation of devices. Here is a list of bullet points one should consider before donating equipment.
Electric plugs need to be the correct configuration for the country and area they will be used in.
Higher end technology requires clinical users who are educated on it, biomedical engineering techs who can repair it, a parts source when repairs are needed, and ancillary staff and disposables, if needed, to use in conjunction with it.
Many overseas entities use a language other than English. Therefore, repair and user manuals need to be, not only available, but available in the correct language.
There are often regulations when shipping to other countries. For instance, only certain wood can come into certain countries, if you plan on using a wooden crate to ship the device, you need to be aware of what wood to use because the wrong material could cause your ocean-going container to be rejected.
Equipment may only be allowed to be a certain number of years old.
Certain manufacturers may be banned in that country. If you are shipping disposables/consumables, they must be within a certain expiration date to be allowed into the country.
Paperwork to get through customs can be daunting and even if done with 100% accuracy there may need to be “incentives” to complete your task.
If you are sending a technical piece and it needs to be installed … who will install? Who will prep the site with power and have the correct room size, etc.?
Some equipment does not work well in all environments (hot, humid) that it could be sent to. Knowing what makes and models can handle the environment is important.
Routine maintenance and upkeep are not at the same standards as in the U.S. therefore knowing which equipment can stand up to poor maintenance and still function is important.
Many times, the equipment is too large for the needs of the entity…perhaps their people are smaller therefore the rooms/areas where the equipment is to be used is too small for U.S. equipment or maybe the equipment needs to be portable because it will serve several areas and must be moved from one to the other.
Some equipment, like lab equipment, requires reagents, etc. Are they available?
As you can see there are many factors to consider before donating equipment. However, please do not let these considerations keep you from donating equipment. You just need to be aware of these issues and plan accordingly. If you are not willing to go through the hassle, there are organizations out there that specialize in collecting equipment for donation. A quick Google search will reveal many options for the time-constrained biomed.
I have purposely not suggested any benefit from tax breaks for donating equipment. To be done correctly so you do not end up in jail, one needs to ensure equipment has been accurately appraised by a licensed appraiser.
In the end, donating equipment is another option for biomeds to clean out their storage area. As long as one evaluates the equipment before donation and considers the environment, shipping, service, usage and complexity you can feel good that you are helping others.
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