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Used wheelchairs, walkers, and other medical supplies find new homes

William Rosenblatt has found a way to send used medical equipment to where it's most needed.
Photo by Harold Shapiro
William Rosenblatt has found a way to send used medical equipment to where it's most needed.

For William H. Rosenblatt, M.D., HS ’90, FW ’91, an “aha” moment came in an e-mail from a woman desperate to dispose of a storage unit stuffed with medical supplies for her recently deceased husband. She had pallets of perfectly good bandages, syringes, fluid, and other items for her husband’s dialysis, worth at least $10,000. She tried to donate the materials, but got no takers.

“They were telling her to throw it away,” said Rosenblatt, professor of anesthesiology and surgery. The woman contacted Rosenblatt through Med-Eq, which he founded several years ago, and begged him to accept the cache. Med-Eq’s website lists surplus medical supplies from health organizations and matches them to nonprofits. The organization only brokered donations from hospitals and clinics, but Rosenblatt made an exception.

“I said, ‘yeah, we’ll take them,’ ” Rosenblatt said.

The experience opened Rosenblatt’s eyes. After a loved one dies, families often have everything from hospital beds to wheelchairs that no one will take.

“I would sometimes talk to people, and they would literally be in tears,” Rosenblatt said. “They had gone out and purchased these supplies, or they had been paid for by Medicare, and no one wanted them. Vendors had made a sale. They didn’t want them back. Hospitals and clinics worried about the legal implications of taking the materials.”

In March 2013, Med-Eq’s website,, began listing donations of medical supplies and equipment from bereaved families. As with all its donations, the materials are free to federally recognized nonprofit organizations that in turn send 80 to 90 percent of the items overseas.

Rosenblatt is a veteran at repurposing medical supplies. In 1991, he founded Recovered Medical Equipment for the Developing World (REMEDY), which sends opened but unused surgical and other medical supplies to Third World nations. At its height, the group partnered with more than 600 hospitals, he said. Med-Eq was an outgrowth of REMEDY.

Med-Eq’s new program is still in its infancy, listing at most one individual donation a week, but growing. The organization is upgrading its website to ease individual use, he said. It also plans outreach through clergy and brochures distributed by visiting nurses’ associations.

Priests, ministers, and rabbis are especially effective communicators because they deal with bereaved families, Rosenblatt said. Rabbi Herbert N. Brockman of Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, Conn., agreed, saying he hands out a Med-Eq brochure about once a month. “You go to their homes, and when you do, you see all this equipment,” Brockman said. “I will mention it to them if they are interested.”

Brockman mentioned Med-Eq to Sue Millen of North Haven, Conn., and for her, it was a godsend. After Millen’s 97-year-old mother-in-law died, the family had two wheelchairs, commodes, walkers, grabbers, and other medical materials. Med-Eq matched Millen with Renewed Life Philippine Mission, which picked up the items at her home and shipped them to the Philippines.

“I was elated,” Millen said. “These things are really being used by people. They were really grateful to have them.”