Medical Equipment Recycling Committee (MERC)
MERC is a sub-committee of the Rotary Club of West Perth (RCWP) that collects, sorts, packs and transports superseded medical equipment to developing countries. Most of the equipment comes from Royal Perth Hospital but there are also other suppliers. Items of furniture such as hospital beds and heavy equipment have been sourced from within the hospital and health system. The machinery has up-to-date service histories and is known to be functioning correctly. Manual beds are ideal to send to places that have unreliable power supplies. Approximately 500 manual hospital beds have been sent overseas by the MERC program.
Smaller items of equipment such as needles, syringes, blood collection tubes and disposable forceps are collected as left-overs from clinical trials and similar projects. Permission has been sought in every case from the original owners of this equipment who are pleased that the items not go to land-fill. Guidelines from Rotary International and the World Health Organisation are strictly adhered to by MERC. Medicines are not included in the MERC project as the export/import of drugs is a complex area and beyond the scope of this project.
The RCWP provides generous financial support which covers the costs of freight of the donated goods. Club members provide the “muscle” when furniture is to be moved and trucked to a container. Willing hands drive trucks, heave furniture, pack containers and pull furniture off walls. One club member uses his contacts to provide trucks and drivers to move the items. Several times a year we will have a Busy B asking club members to come along to help if there is a lot of equipment to be packed or moved. This provides an opportunity for members to see where the club’s funds are being spent and gives them a sense of ownership of the project. It’s also good fun! Members from other Rotary clubs have also been along to help and are always welcome.
We have been fortunate to have an agreement with Presbyterian Ladies College for their year 9 students accompanied by a parent, to help us sort the small items as part of their community service. The students sort, count and pack these items into boxes ready to be shipped. Without exception, this fortnightly collaboration is a most enjoyable one where the students get an opportunity to serve the community and we as Rotarians have the opportunity to interact with our local youth.
One project involved collecting furniture for two women’s clinics in remote East Timor. These clinics had a building, power and water but no furniture, so the challenge was to find suitable items so the local midwives could use the facility. Furniture was collected from a variety of places such as a closed down nursing home and discarded linen from laundry services. These items were packed into a container and shipped to East Timor where they have played an important part in providing services for mothers and babies in one of the poorest countries in the world. Other shipments have been to Wewak in Papua New Guinea, Malawi and Bali.