Utah hospitals ask for wheelchair, walker, crutches donations amid supply shortage

November and December mark the busiest time of year for orthopedic surgeries.

Health officials in a news conference Monday urged Utahns to donate metal crutches and other mobility-assist equipment as area medical centers face a supply shortage.

Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health, Steward Health and the Utah Hospital Association are leading the donation drive called “LeanOnUtah” to collect metal crutches, walkers, canes and non-motorized wheelchairs from the community.

The equipment shortage is due to pandemic-related global supply chain disruptions and an aluminum shortage, officials said.

Glen Beeby, a spokesperson for Intermountain Healthcare, asked Utahns to search their closets, attics and garages for such unused equipment ahead of November and December, the busiest time of year for orthopedic surgeries.

Donation drives will be held at nine medical centers throughout the state this Saturday as well as on Saturday, Nov. 6, and Saturday, Nov. 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. A full list of the centers receiving donations is available at leanonutah.com.

All donated equipment will be inspected for safety and sanitized before distributed for hospital use, officials said.

Dr. Joey Kamerath, senior medical director for rehabilitation services at Intermountain Healthcare, said he’s never seen a supply shortage like this. Each month, his department uses an average of about 1,800 pairs of crutches, he said, but the department’s supply chain has run “completely dry.”

Kamerath added that suppliers have informed medical centers that they don’t know when they’ll have more mobility-assist equipment to sell.

“There’s plenty of equipment available out there, we just need help getting it from your closets to our patients,” Kamerath said.

Dr. Darrel Brodke, chair of the orthopedics department for U. of U. Health, said that these devices are not only important for the mobility of a patient, they also allow patients to rest and heal their injuries completely — an essential step in the recovery process.

Kamerath noted that ski season also brings travelers to northern Utah from all over the country, and with them, an uptick in injuries.

“Let’s be proactive before this becomes a tremendous crisis,” Martha Gamble, chief nursing officer for Steward Health Care Jordan Valley West, said.

Health officials also are seeking volunteers to help inspect and sanitize donations before equipment is sent to area hospitals. To sign up, visit justserve.org.