2014-01-31 / Front Page

Supplies will now ship out of South Portland

Sean P. Milligan
Contributing Writer


Partners for World Health Operations Coordinator Mandy Rodney displays a bag of unused medical linens. The listed expiration date on the package is Feb. 2015, but would have been thrown out if it not for the organization. (Sean P. Milligan photo) Partners for World Health Operations Coordinator Mandy Rodney displays a bag of unused medical linens. The listed expiration date on the package is Feb. 2015, but would have been thrown out if it not for the organization. (Sean P. Milligan photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – Partners for World Health, a local nonprofit that sends medical supplies and medical staff to developing countries, has moved its headquarters to 2112 Broadway in South Portland. The organization will hold an open house Thursday, Feb. 13 to showcase its new facility.

Partners for World Health started in 2007 when founder Elizabeth McLellan began collecting medical supplies from area hospitals. The equipment and supplies she collects would either be discarded due to expiration dates or simply because they were in the operating room with a patient and were already paid for by their insurance company. All necessary equipment is kept sterile and deemed fit for use before being sent to its endpoint.

By September 2009, after accruing more than 11,000 pounds of supplies that would have otherwise been incinerated, McLellan found it necessary to move her operation from her home to a larger venue.

“This is my end-of-life mission. I’m going out with this one because this is so important,” McLellan said. “It’s not just important because we’re saving it from the landfill, but we’re really giving it to people who need it.”

In addition to collecting supplies and shipping them to their international destinations, Partners for World Health organizes medical missions where doctors, nurses and students in varying fields go abroad to perform surgeries and other procedures that patients would otherwise go without.

“My first medical mission trip was to Bangladesh last year,” said Mandy Rodney, operations coordinator for Partners for World Health and a full-time nurse at Maine Medical Center. “You are immersed in poverty. You see it, you smell it, you’re really in the middle of it, but you get to be a part of somebody’s everyday life.”

Rodney said families of patients in countries like Bangladesh take on the responsibility of caring and cleaning for their loved ones simply because there isn’t enough medical staff available in their country.

The nurses who participate in medical missions help educate local nursing staff through capacity training in addition to performing medical procedures. Given limited staffing, the training is intended to help the staff maximize their efforts.

Partners for World Health, and similar organizations across the country, also provide a service to area communities. According to McLellan, hospitals spend anywhere from $300,000 to $400,000 a year on the cost of waste.

“..[T]his is causing our health care insurance to go up, our expenses in health care to go up,” said McLellan, who worked as a RN in the Middle East until returning to United States in the late 1990s.

“If (hospitals) aren’t willing to take responsibility for it, fine. I’ll take it and I’ll give it to the people who need it. Somebody has to, so why not?”

Partners for World Health aims to ship 40,000 to 50,000 pounds of supplies to countries in need in the coming year. The estimated worth will be in the $250,000 to $350,000 range. The organization also plans six missions in 2014. Destinations include Senegal, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Peru and Rwanda.

Partners for World Health is completely dependent on volunteers. No one gets paid, including McLellan, and the organization urges those who want to help to attend the open house for more information. Volunteers of all ages can participate and range in age from 9 to 96.

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