In my world some scientists were put in what is basically a biodome, and have been teaching their children/grandchildren science and medicine, ect. there was a bioweapon that went haywire and killed/ altered most of humanity, and the scientists were placed there to find a cure. It took longer than expected, and now 200 years later two of those scientists are venturing out into the wild to find a populace large enough to act as a test group for the cure. They hole up in an old hospital that has been somewhat upkept, but I'm wondering how much of the equipment/medicine will still be usable?

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    $\begingroup$ this really depends on the equipment, and storage, metal and glass implements left in an abandoned autoclave will be virtually untouched. Unrefrigerated penicillin on the other hand has the shelf life of milk. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 2, 2018 at 4:11
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    $\begingroup$ The odds of a hospital building surviving 200 years without regular care and maintenance are very small. The building itself is likely to suffer major e.g. collapse. The period during which everything went haywire would probably have resulted in the equipment being destroyed or vandalized in e.g. riots, theft. $\endgroup$ Nov 2, 2018 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ Let's get this over with. The hospital has been ransacked until way after every painkiller, sedative, stimulant, usual medication had been milked out of it. Some people kill for drugs and some die without treatment, they won't believe fancy rumors and will go see by themselves that no drugs remain. $\endgroup$
    – castor
    Nov 7, 2018 at 23:03

4 Answers 4


Virtually Useless

Two scenarios:

Lots of people survived the apocalypse

  • The hospital will have been vandalized and looted for useful equipment within a short period of time. Any supplies - e.g., bandages, medicine, syringes - and any equipment that can function without the power grid will disappear extremely quickly
  • If the hospital doesn't become someone's home base, any usable parts of the building will be stripped clean within a few years - metal, electrical wiring, doors, carpeting - you name it, someone will salvage it for their own building.

Few people survived the apocalypse

  • Medicines, bandages and other small items will have disintegrated, dried up or otherwise become useless within a few years. "use by" dates don't matter for a few years - but after 200 years very little will be usable. I certainly wouldn't trust the medicine - even something as simple as aspirin will have gone bad.
  • The structure and large equipment MAY be usable, depending on the environment. If this is Phoenix then you may be in luck, though 200 years is a very long time. If it is Miami or Hawaii (humidity and saltwater), New York/Chicago/Boston (freeze/thaw cycles) then decay of the structures and everything inside will happen in a matter of decades.
  • Animals - from ants & cockroaches to stray cats & dogs to lions, tigers & bears (oh my!) will have had 200 years of easy entrance and chewed anything chewable, bashed anything bashable and pooped everywhere. Again, a hospital in Phoenix may have a somewhat better chance of being a little bit useful, simply because there aren't as many native creatures.

Either way, after 200 years there is pretty much no hope of finding useful medicine, bandages, small equipment, etc. and very little hope of even a useful structure.

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    $\begingroup$ In Miami or Hawaii I would also take into account hurricanes... $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Nov 2, 2018 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ +1 After 200 years I would be amazed that the building was still standing. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Nov 2, 2018 at 8:32

Assuming the building is not ransacked:

Most hospital equipment receives very rough treatment, even though worker there try to be careful. It's being pushed here and there. Most of it is heavy and difficult to control Things get bumped and knocked around. Modern corporate medicine being what it is, many supplies will be rather cheap in quality and in minimal & very cheap packaging. So your scenario will almost certainly begin with "pre-degraded" equipment and "ready-to-disintegrate" supplies.

However, some rather surprising things may still be useful even after 200 years!

None of that, I'm sure, will be equipment. Wires will be chewed, insulation will be degraded. Even if they found devices that were functional, chances are really good none of your grandchildren who were taught medicine will actually know how to work the things. Just ask a nurse who actually actually knows how to run all the machines and gadgets. Hint: it isn't the doctors!

So what might still be around?

  • Paper. In our modern paperless corporate medicine culture, the one thing that has actually proliferated is paper. It's everywhere. Every unit and clinic in the hospital has at least twenty to fifty xerox machines, fax machines & printers. They all rely on reams & reams of paper, and all that paper is stored in relatively safe closets. So, your explorers need never worry about paper! Pencils, paper clips, manila folders, binders, etc., etc. All kinds of office supplies will still be quite functional after 200 years.

    And the most important kind of paper of all -- toilet paper! Big rolls of the stuff literally everywhere!

  • Water. Every unit & clinic & area where people work has a bottled water dispenser. Those big five gallon demijohns. The plastic is pretty heavy duty and, again, these things are generally stored in relatively cool, dark locations (closets). Check the vending areas. Pop (in cans) may still be drinkable even after 200 years.

  • Vaseline. Yep. Good old white petrolatum. Stuff lasts forever. I have seen containers of Vaseline dating to the 1940s or earlier and the stuff inside seems pretty stable. A number of rubs in vaseline base will probably also be okay. (Vicks, Mentholatum, etc)

  • Saline solutions. Some saline solutions are kept in glass bottles with thick stoppers. Those should be okay, even after 200 years, and will very likely still be sterile. Ordinary saline solutions are kept in thick plastic bags. They would probably be okay, too. Beggars can't be choosers!

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    $\begingroup$ Toilet paper will not have decayed after 200 years? I don't find that very plausible. $\endgroup$
    – ANeves
    Nov 2, 2018 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ Paper is pretty sturdy stuff, and commercial toilet paper is stiffer than that marketed for home use. Mind you, paper (of any kind) that has been subject to excessive damp, flooding or ravaged by beasties that like to eat paper will of course not survive. I think that, given a relatively ideal condition --- storage in a janitorial closet at the interior & upper floors of the building --- will result in at least some welcome relief for our intrepid explorers! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Nov 2, 2018 at 17:56

Medicine in plastic containers might still be usable, and the containers and the labels may have survived intact as well. However, a lot of the medication may have been mixed and repacked locally in the hospital's own pharmacy. They most likely used thermal printed labels. Those labels tend to fade fairly quickly. Some may be barely readable within a year.

Things like x-ray machines etc, require electricity, which you may have access to via a diesel generator in the hospital's basement. The generator itself may need to be greased etc as 200 years will likely cause it to seize up. But if you can get it running, there may be a chance of the electronic devices still working.


I will assume that the building is intact with windows and doors shut and that it was not ransacked. And that the building is made of solid materials like most big city hospitals so the interior never froze or heated up too much. Obviously, you may decide all or some of these assumptions are not true, but then you can modify accordingly.

I'm in the middle of a bathroom remodel and so am going through a lot of junk I pulled out of drawers and cabinets. This includes stuff I took from my mom's house when she died 22 years ago. Some of it was old then (some of it came from her dad who was a doctor). I can see how things change over time, even if my timescale is a fraction of yours.

Some medicines may still be good. Expiration dates are there for legal purposes and to indicate full potency. But an awful lot of meds are still at 98% potency or something like that after 5 years. I wouldn't touch the liquid meds, but some pills and powders, if kept sealed and bone dry, might have some use. As long as you don't care about exact potency.

Adhesives and elastics are probably shot.

Stainless steel should be in great shape, if kept dry. So a lot of equipment, surgical tools, tables, etc. Aluminum and enamel probably too (like for basins).

Gauze and other fabricy things may still be okay. You can find linens that old in antique stores. And they were used regularly, washed, etc. But some will have disintegrated. Most will have yellowed with age. Paper gowns might be okay.

Exam tables should be usable though the vinyl covers and the padding will not be in great shape.

Oxygen in tanks is probably gone. Those things leak slightly. Some will leak out in weeks, most will take years. But 200 years will likely get most.

PVC tubing and other supplies will probably have issues from disintegration and weakening. This includes oxygen tubing, IV bags and tubing, supplies for feeding (nasal, stomach, etc). Stethoscopes and blood pressure tubing may be rubber, synthetic rubber, or PVC and may or may not be intact. Stethoscopes should work I'd think, at least some of them.

Needles are likely okay if kept dry. The hard plastic syringes and other surrounding plastic...maybe, maybe not.

Medical textbooks, manuals, surgical technique books, etc, should still be good! Those might be your best resources.


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