The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified the shortage of functional medical equipment in low-income countries as a critical barrier to meeting the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Hospitals in low-income countries frequently report the poor state of medical equipment as being a key challenge they face in delivering services.
Much progress has been made to improve this situation in the past two decades. Many countries have appointed medical equipment specialists (typically medical engineers) within the Ministry of Health to advise on medical equipment procurement and budgeting. Guidelines for good procurement and donation practices have been produced. Maintenance teams have been established in many large hospitals and over wider referral networks, and many new innovative technologies have been designed that are more appropriate for use in developing countries.
However, much remains to be done. Very few training programs exist to produce medical equipment technologists and engineers in Africa, for example. Equipment maintenance personnel need more training prior to and while in post; they need better tools, equipment and reference materials in their workshops and need to be more effectively engaged in equipment decision-making in their hospitals.
Equipment donations should meet guidelines to ensure they are more sustainable and contribute positively to service delivery, and procurement should always include budgeting and training for maintenance activities. Regulatory mechanisms should be in place to oversee the quality and safety of medical equipment, and there should be equipment management committees in hospitals and wider health systems to oversee medical equipment over its entire lifespan.