By Deborah Court 

    There is something about the way a person speaks when they are totally committed and enthused about their topic. You can hear their sincerity and it is mighty appealing.

    I heard Dr Martin Nguyen interviewed on the radio. He was talking about a project he started called Medical Pantry. I was captivated and immediately applied to be a volunteer. 

    Once I was accepted, I attended for my first day at the Medical Pantry warehouse. There was a healthy variety of volunteers; men and women, young and old (me). Everyone was equally enthusiastic and friendly. A volunteer coordinator explained the processes and away we all went. Hospitals send boxes of high-quality unused goods that are still sealed, sterile and usable. At the warehouse the volunteers firstly categorise these items. You have to separate the catheters from the scalpels, not to mention the forceps from the non-adherent dressings. The next step is to gather the equipment requested by aid agencies or charitable organisations and package it ready for transportation. The day flew by, and I felt I had contributed to something good. 

    Dr Nguyen works as an anaesthetist with Western Health. Some years ago, his concern about hospital waste was confirmed when a study showed that in one week 23% of waste generated by six operating rooms was recyclable. He has observed first-hand the need for this equipment when he has undertaken medical mission trips in remote parts of Vietnam where there was a great need for medical supplies. 

    It was not an easy task to persuade hospitals to change established routines and direct unused supplies to Medical Pantry. Dr Nguyen persevered. Medical Pantry now donates clinical goods to under-resourced communities worldwide including Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Zimbabwe. Goods are also used locally in community health settings. Wildlife Sanctuaries also receive donations. 

    Medical Pantry was in the running for the City of Melbourne Awards 22 in the Sustainability category. They did not win but were thrilled to be nominated.

    Medical Pantry relies entirely on donations and volunteers. It is a mark of the vision and determination of Dr Nguyen that it now plays a pioneering role in the recycling and sustainability practice of Melbourne hospitals. May it continue to grow into the future. 

    If you want to find out more or donate visit or

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