U.S. Medical Trash Saving Lives In Africa

On garbage day at a New York hospital, perfectly good medical equipment is taken away to make way for newer models. But it isn't going to the dump - it's going to Africa to save lives, reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.

"We're getting supplies shipped to us from Houston, from Phoenix, from California, from Wisconsin," said cardiologist Dr. Bruce Charash.

In 2005, Charash had an idea: Collect old and unused medical supplies and send them to developing countries. He founded Doc to Dock, a non-profit organization that's sent 12 tons of supplies to countries like Ghana, Ethiopia and Benin.

"Our philosophy is, as long as we're throwing it out, we might as well save lives overseas by giving them to people who need them," Charash said.

"This load right here would've ended up going into the garbage. As you see, you have some equipment here that hasn't even been opened yet. Still completely closed," said one delivery man.

It's a sealed package; but it would have been unable to be used in the United States due to hospital regulations.

One surgical kit contains everything a doctor needs to do an operation - things like gauze pads and syringes. But anything that's not used has to be thrown away, even if it's untouched and totally sterile.

The group takes almost everything, from catheters to IV lines to walkers.

Supplies were recently shipped to the Tepa District Hospital in Ghana. Before Doc to Dock stepped in, the maternity ward in the hospital had next to nothing.

"I'm the surgeon, I'm the obstetrician, and I'm the only gynecologist there," said Dr. Isaac Boateng, who has been delivering 50 to 60 babies a week. But he's never had a sonogram - until now.

"We say that you are going to save millions of people," he said.

America's medical trash is Africa's medical treasure.

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook