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Frequently Asked Questions
What does Global Links do?
Global Links is a medical relief and development organization, based in Pittsburgh but with an international perspective and reach. We are dedicated to improving the health and lives of people in developing countries, while providing hospitals in our region with a socially and environmentally responsible alternative to disposing of tons of medical surplus -- unused or still-useful materials. Global Links promotes green healthcare locally through education about the enormous environmental impact of the healthcare industry. Our volunteers have a unique opportunity to participate in local and international social change.
Why does medical surplus exist in U.S. hospitals? From whom do you receive your supplies?
Much of the medical surplus is the result of new technologies, vendor changes, response to regulatory requirements, and scheduled upgrades of systems and facilities. Some of these factors prevent the material from being donated domestically. We currently work with 30 healthcare partners in our region: hospitals, nursing homes, and homecare companies.
What countries do you work in, and why?
Global Links focuses its efforts in nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean: Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica and Nicaragua. Our long-standing collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the region’s top public health specialist, provides valuable technical support for our work, as well as limited financial assistance. By limiting our programs to PAHO/WHO countries and developing long-term programs, Global Links has been able to develop regional expertise, productive professional relationships, and cultural and language competencies that facilitate our work.
The Suture Program is worldwide, since suture is easily packed and shipped, and by itself can have a big impact on a hospital’s ability to provide care.
How long have you been in existence, and what metrics do you have to measure your accomplishments?
Global Links was founded in 1989. Since then, we have shipped over 410 tractor-trailer loads of desperately needed medical materials to facilities in developing countries. The estimated total value of the shipped materials exceeds $173 million. PAHO/WHO has cited us as “an important partner and ally in our strategic planning efforts in the region.”
Since its inception, Global Links has redirected more than six million pounds of medical materials to developing countries where they are desperately needed, and kept those materials out of landfills in the Pittsburgh area. Our environmental impact has been nationally recognized through awards, citations, and requests from hospitals throughout the country for help in greening their own operations and contributing to the health of people in resource-poor communities.
How is Global Links different from other organizations that donate medical materials?
First, our mission is twofold: promoting environmental stewardship and improving health. Our medical materials are recovered from health care facilities, rather than solicited from manufacturers’ surplus – a win-win-win for hospitals, the environment and recipients abroad. And by focusing on recovery of materials, Global Links can offer a wide range of medical supplies and furnishings to our partners overseas. We have re-defined the model for medical donations.
Quality control, along with careful assessment of the needs and situations of recipients, lies at the heart of our operation. Global Links sends only high-quality supplies and fully-functioning equipment, with all necessary components. The materials we send are the most critically needed to serve the greatest segments of the target populations, and have been requested by recipients. In general, less than 30% of medical equipment donations overseas are ever actually used. Not with Global Links -- our recipients say that nearly100% of every donation is immediately useful.
Finally, Global Links’s strategic approach to improving health by strengthening regional healthcare systems sets us apart. We work closely with PAHO/WHO and the Ministries of Health in our program countries to assure that all of our efforts – whether material donations or shared technical expertise – support and advance the countries’ public health planning.
Do you ever provide medical materials to local organizations?
Yes. Because of regulatory requirements, much of the surplus supplies we recover cannot be used in the U.S. However, whenever we are able to, we respond to local needs. Examples of local partners include: Bidwell Training Center, Construction Junction, Operation Safety Net, Cancer Caring Center, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Genesis House, World Vision, and Three Rivers Center for Independent Living.
How is Global Links funded? And how much do you spend on overhead?
Global Links receives contributions from a variety of sources, such as PAHO/WHO, local and national foundations, domestic and international corporations, and from individual donors. We receive a small amount of funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) towards ocean freight costs.
Global Links spends less than 3% of its revenues on overhead.
How can I become involved in Global Link’s work?
We welcome community participation in our efforts. Financial support at all levels is greatly appreciated. And volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization. Last year Pittsburgh volunteers of all ages and abilities provided 9,000 hours of service to Global Links. Most volunteers sort and pack medical supplies or prepare furnishings and medical equipment for shipment overseas. Other volunteers lead community collections or small fundraisers or help with mailings. Some volunteers donate their professional expertise and services, in the medical field and beyond.
A good place to start is to join a tour of our sorting facility. You will find a schedule and can sign up for a tour at our website. We look forward to meeting you and telling you more about Global Links!