If it's broke, let's
Being lumped with equipment that doesn't work is just as frustrating as having no equipment. And often, as Eben Amstrong, Senior Biomedical Engineer at MedShare can attest, fixing it is simple and straightforward.
"75% of the equipment I've repaired in the 38 countries I've visited can be repaired without spare parts," said Eben during a recent visit to state hospitals in Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
His visit formed the second phase of a partnership between The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation (TCCAF) and MedShare International.
In 2009 TCCAF and MedShare delivered six, 40-foot containers of medical equipment to both Swaziland and Zimbabwe. But the collaboration doesn't end with just the delivery of the equipment. As part of the sustainability component of the partnership, MedShare sends its bio-medical engineer to train and equip medical technicians in-country, on the use, repair and maintenance of all equipment donated as well as to address existing equipment issues.
"Ensuring that we have a sustainable business and that the communities we serve are sustainable is fundamental to everything we do at The Coca-Cola Company," says William Asiko, President of TCCAF and Group PAC Director. "And this philosophy of 'Live Positively' is something we've been doing for years."
A successful trip
Eben, who was hosted by Celebration Health – another of TCCAF's implementing partners – began his journey at the Harare Central Hospital in Zimbabwe where he conducted a multiple day training clinic for 28 technicians from hospitals in and around Harare. Training covered theory, preventative maintenance, and item-by-item repair. Eben reviewed each item donated through MedShare as well as conducted troubleshooting of non-MedShare equipment the technicians listed from their own hospitals.
"One of the most significant accomplishments was the training provided for the mobile CT scanner donated by Catalina Imaging in partnership with TCCAF that MedShare had sent to Zimbabwe," says Nell Diallo, Vice President, Corporate & International Relations at MedShare. "This is only the second working CT scanner in the entire public health sector in a country of more than 13 million people!"
At the end of the training session Eben presented the technicians with donated maintenance tool sets capable of testing and fixing biomedical equipment.
In Swaziland, Eben conducted a training clinic for 34 technicians. Biomedical training programs are not available in the country and it is hoped that this training will be leveraged to train others in-country in the future. Eben was also able to visit several health care facilities in each country to repair equipment in need of servicing and to train end users of the biomedical equipment. Finally, Eben was able to conduct needs assessments at several facilities to project what follow-up shipments might be needed to improve healthcare in these countries over the long-term.
Says Nell: "These follow up visits are absolutely imperative. One of the areas that is most lacking in the field of healthcare delivery is the need for engineering training. Thousands of pieces of unused biomedical equipment are cluttering up hospitals and clinics as they are broken, or in need of repair."
"It's amazing to see how the wonderful work that Medshare is doing with the help of TCCAF is changing people's lives. When the participants left not only did they have working equipment but they also knew how to troubleshoot problems in the future," reported Eben.
TCCAF and MedShare are not the only ones who see the value of these visits. Dr Kuda, the medical director for Celebration Health in Zimbabwe, was also extremely grateful for this added component of the program. He said, "Thank you for sending Eben to Zimbabwe. Over the past three days he has been very helpful in offering training to our central hospital technicians. Technicians from various hospitals in and around Harare were beaming with joy as Eben handed over the maintenance tool kits at the end of the training session."
Eben was also able to fix a failing infusion pump machine while he was in Zimbabwe. "One of the monitors in the intensive care unit where a patient was suffering from septicemia was down. Eben managed to diagnose and fix the problem and the machine is now in good shape," said Dr Kuda. "I would like to thank The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation for affording the people of Zimbabwe and Africa access to better and greater quality healthcare."