I have now been working more than a year at, the Northern Technical College (NORTEC), in Ndola, Zambia. It has been an interesting year. This blog is to share my experiences and my enthusiasm for this attractive country and its friendly people as well as my findings on the world of medical equipment, which is so essential for modern healthcare.
This THET/DFID supported activity is based on a 2011 needs assessment in Zambian government hospitals which established that the medical equipment situation in the country was indeed quite poor. Typically, only 50-65% of all medical equipment that is found in hospitals is functional. One of the root causes for this was found to be the absence of technical personnel who have been trained to repair medical equipment. No such training was available in the country.
Following up on this, THET has worked with the Ministry of Health as well as the Ministry of Education to set up a training course for Biomedical Equipment Technologists (BMETs). NORTEC, one of the leading Technology Colleges in Zambia, was selected as the training institute to implement this new curriculum. The BMET course is for a good part based on course modules that were already given at NORTEC, such as on electronics, mathematics, and computer skills. THET has supported NORTEC by installing a BMET workshop, acquiring 2ndhand Medical Equipment for student practice, instruments/toolboxes and last but not least hiring and funding volunteer lecturers to present the Medical equipment specific lectures, this is where I come in.
NORTEC has now taken on 95 students, including 20 women, divided over the three years of the BMET curriculum. The first cohort will complete their studies at the end of 2016. THET is working with the Ministry of Health to ensure that new positions for BMETs will be created at the hospitals by 2017.
While working here at the College, visiting hospitals and talking to local experts, it has become clear to us that more needs to be done in the country to substantially improve the medical equipment situation. To have well-trained BMETs is certainly essential, but if the workshops at the hospital continue to be so poorly equipped, if the number of technical people in the hospital remains so limited (one technical person in a 700 bed hospital is common), if the procedures to purchase spare parts remain so cumbersome, only limited impact can be expected from well-trained BMETs.
Therefore, the THET focus is now moving from education only to also include hospital processes and decision making processes at the Ministry of Health. THET has acquired DFID funding to look further into these issues during 2016. It will be an interesting year. I will keep you posted.
Volunteer lecturer for THET’s BMET Programme