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Firm recycles medical supplies
More people need medical supplies as they lose insurance coverage


Date published: 3/2/2009

BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE

People come to The Equipment Connection for many reasons.

A family member seeks help for a newly disabled relative. An insurance policy doesn't cover shower seats or walkers. A disabled person needs a second wheelchair.

Last year, the medical equipment recycling program in Fredericksburg gave away more than 1,000 wheelchairs, walkers, shower seats and other paraphernalia.

Michael Hamlet, who runs the office on Princess Anne Street, expects to give away more equipment this year as area residents lose jobs and insurance.

"The need and the demand is really huge," he said.

The disAbility Resource Center opened the office nearly two years ago and has since added centers in Orange and Culpeper counties.

Hamlet has already seen the numbers rise, especially among veterans and the recently unemployed.

In the past three months, the Fredericksburg office served more than 340 people.

However, the program's three-year federal grant runs out this year.

"We are struggling desperately to come up with that money," Hamlet said.

The grant provides $40,000 a year. The program takes $85,000 each year to run, Hamlet said.

The Mary Washington Hospital Foundation recently gave The Equipment Connection $25,000. That money will pay for more staff hours, equipment repair and batteries.

An electric wheelchair requires $400 in batteries to run, Hamlet said. It's not a big investment compared to the $20,000 price tag for that type of wheelchair, but battery costs add up, he said.

Virginia is one of a dozen states receiving federal money to recycle medical equipment. In two years, the state program has recycled more than $2 million worth of equipment.

Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973
Email: aumble@freelancestar.com


People donate medical items, such as crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and shower seats, to The Equipment Connection. Staff and volunteers clean and repair the equipment and donate it to others. In Culpeper, the equipment is donated through Rappahannock Goodwill Industries' thrift shop.

The program can be a big help, when wheelchairs can cost up to $20,000; crutches can run $50 and shower seats go for $30. Many of these expenses are not covered by insurance, and as area businesses lay off employees, more people are finding themselves without any coverage.

FREDERICKSBURG:

The Equipment Connection, 1503 Princess Anne St.

540/373-6464 or 866/632-8006

CULPEPER:

The Equipment Corner, 540 Culpeper Town Square U.S. 15/U.S. 29.

866/632-8006.

ORANGE:

The Equipment Corner, 13286 James Madison Highway, Orange Bridges Support Center 540/672-4355 or 866/672-4355

For any location, you may e-mail Michael Hamlet at hamletm1@hotmail.com.