Partners for World Health (PWH) is a non-profit 501(c)3 based in Portland, Maine. PWH collects medical supplies and equipment from healthcare facilities, manufacturers, other organizations, and individuals. We sort, evaluate, repackage, and prepare these supplies and equipment for distribution to individuals, communities, and healthcare facilities in need.
Our work limits the impact on the environment by diverting materials from landfills; lowers healthcare costs by lowering disposal fees; and provides healthcare resources to those in need. PWH aims to improve health conditions by sending medical personnel on medical missions to the developing world and educating New England communities about global health issues.
Daily, we receive requests for medical supplies and equipment from right here in Maine, as many individuals find it hard to afford the items they need to live a full life. These requests come from many avenues, including home health care workers aiding patients, elderly individuals, social service organizations, and new Mainers looking for personal care items. PWH has been able to provide supplies and equipment for little to no cost to these individuals, never turning away someone truly in need. Often an individual will come looking for one item and leave with a car full of much needed supplies after we learn they need so much more.
Now in our tenth year, PWH is the only New England-based nonprofit organization that collects, repackages, and distributes medical supplies to those in need. It is estimated that $10 billion is spent in disposal fees amongst hospitals across the U.S, discarding of more than 5 million tons of supplies, equipment and trash. Since 2009, PWH has collected more than 2 million pounds of medical supplies that would have otherwise been destined for local landfills, saving more than 318,000 pounds in 2019 alone.
While working as a Nurse Administrator in a trauma center in Saudi Arabia, Elizabeth McLellan, RN, MSN, MPH had the opportunity to visit a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan. While she was there she observed a surgeon who had just arrived from the operating room; he began to treat a man’s wound with a used bandage, wiped his hands onto his blood-stained, cloth scrubs then continued onto the next patient. It was clear that this hospital lacked even basic supplies such as linens, gauze, gloves, bandages, and tape. Nurses were using glass syringes and reusable metal needles. Sinks were not available to wash one’s hands. As Elizabeth stood there in the middle of what could only be considered chaos, she thought to herself, "Someday, when I go home, I'm going to do something about this."
In 2007, she did just that. Elizabeth began gathering discarded supplies from the Maine hospital where she was working. She positioned collection boxes in different departments, educating nurses and housekeeping staff to save medical supplies located in rooms of patients who were discharged. Once a patient is discharged from a room, all supplies left behind go to the trash. For two years, she continued to gather these supplies until she eventually reached capacity within her home. In 2009, Elizabeth rented her first storage space, and with a group of volunteers moved an inventory of more than 11,000 pounds of collected medical supplies and equipment (wheelchairs, crutches, wound care materials, gauze, syringes, tape, depends, gowns, alcohol wipes, etc.) out of her home.
This was the official start of Partners for World Health (PWH).