In modern healthcare, medical equipment plays a crucial role.
Starting with the introduction of X-ray and ECG equipment some 100 years ago, the dependency of good healthcare on high quality medical equipment has been continuously growing.
In low and middle income countries (LMICs) this is equally true. However, the lack of financial resources in such countries means that ongoing trade-offs have to be made between expenses for medical equipment and expenses for pharmaceuticals, hospital personnel salaries and even food for patients. This makes it even more important to get the best value out of all available equipment.
….. and what could be improved
One of the key ingredients for the proper functioning of medical equipment is the availability of well-trained professionals to manage and maintain such equipment. However, in many LMICs there is no specialised training for medical equipment maintenance. Local electricians and mechanics do their best to maintain hospital equipment as well as they can, but this remains a challenge. Up to 50% of equipment malfunctions are usually accredited to user error. Personnel that are familiar with use, design and troubleshooting of medical equipment, are sorely missed.
Another roadblock in assuring good medical equipment availability are the practices of medical equipment donors. Donation is an important contributor of medical equipment in many African countries, easily forming 50% of all equipment acquisition in many hospitals. However, the poor practices around equipment donations mean that many donations do not deliver the value that they should.
An estimated 30% of medical equipment in African LMICs is not functional, and another key cause of this can be found in current procurement and management practices within LMIC hospitals and Ministries of Health. Appropriate budgeting for spare parts, ensuring the presence pf functional repair workshops, tools and test equipment, and other key management activities are often overlooked.