May 29, 2014 1:55 am

Vancouver man ensures used hospital supplies get to war-torn countries

WATCH (above): As Aaron McArthur reports one man has made it his mission to take the items which would otherwise be destroyed to doctors in war-torn countries.

In the old laundry room of Vancouver General Hospital, mattresses are stacked 10 feet high. Stretchers are shoved against a wall. Ambulance bags, medical textbooks, crutches and walking boots are stuffed into boxes.

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When VGH no longer needs this equipment, or when there’s the slightest risk of infection exposure, it gets sent here. Often times, all it takes is being in a patient’s room for a short period before it goes down here.

Without a facilitator, much of this would be destined for the dump. But for the vast majority of the world’s population, it’s all reusable medical equipment.

And in the last three years, one VGH employee has made sure it’s gone to the most needy in war-torn countries.

“I collect stuff that would normally go in the landfill,” says Nigel Myatt. “I donate it to different organizations. They take it, sort it, pack it.”

“Stuff like this transforms their lives.”

A package of used supplies from Vancouver General Hospital being prepared for Uganda.

Myatt, who works in the VGH Burn and Trauma Unit, started working with aid groups during the 2011 Libyan civil war. A friend of a friend asked if he could get some supplies. He was quickly able to get a few beds that were no longer in use. Then started thinking about all the other items VGH had that could be used.

“I’ve never had a problem [with management],” says Myatt, explaining that all donations are approved by somebody. “Everyone I’ve dealt with has been very helpful.”

“People…they want to help people. We’re a helping profession.”

A volunteer endeavour, Myatt gives the equipment to local aid groups, who sort and repack it. Over the past three years, he estimates the hospital has donated 400 beds, 30 operating tables, and seemingly every other item under the sun you would find in a hospital.

Even unused Huggies.

Myatt is preparing a package including Huggies and crutches to be sent to Syria.

“That’s for a respiratory therapist here,” says Myatt, lifting up a blue tarp and exposing some toiletries and crutches. “She’s going to pack it up to Haiti. That’s her passion.”

Huggies to Haiti. Blood pressure machines to a teaching hospital in Uganda. And so much else that would otherwise slowly decay.

“When they’re discharged, all that stuff used to go to the landfill,” he says.

“We have everything. Other places, hospitals down there, you’re not going to have a bed, or if you do they’ll be four people and you won’t have a mattress.”

The latest group taking advantage of Myatt’s system is Canadian Relief for Syria. They’ve already delivered a truckload of supplies to the country and another one is one the way.

“I knocked on many doors, and you’d be surprised how many heroes we have here. [Myatt's] one of them,” said Riam El-Safadi, a volunteer with Canadian Relief for Syria.

“It’s doing amazing things with the simplest of gestures.”

For his part, Myatt says all he does is find the stuff, and find someone who wants them.

“I don’t think it’s that’s much effort. I have a lot of fun doing it. And at the end of the day, it makes a difference.”

All this good, coming from one man, and one old laundry facility.

“To us it looks like a pile of junk,” says Myatt.

“To them, it’s lifesaving.”

- With files from Aaron McArthur

© Shaw Media, 2014

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