A well-functioning health service relies on the availability of operational medical equipment at all levels of delivery. Read about the development of a curriculum for a three-year biomedical engineering technologist diploma programme, the first of its kind in Zambia

Since 2011, THET with support from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) has been working with the Northern Technical College (NORTEC) to develop the first pre-service training course for Biomedical  Engineering Technologists (BMETs). It is a three-year diploma which incorporates electrical engineering, anatomy and physiology, medical instrumentation, and medical equipment management and maintenance. It involves a mixture of theoretical learning, hands on workshop practice, and hospital based experiential learning. The BMET course began in September 2013 with its first cohort of students, and has an annual intake of 30 students. THET support has included an initial needs assessment, leading the curriculum development process, providing trainers, refurbishing the skills workshop, and the procurement of medical and test equipment and textbooks.

Country Led Initiative

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health have supported the course since its inception, with assistance given to the curriculum development process, and planning for the hospital based attachments which occur in the second and third years of the course. The graduated BMETs will possess an important skillset for the Ministries to draw upon in the improvement and modernisation of health services in Zambia. The Northern Technical College (NORTEC) in Ndola, Zambia is a training institution under Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education. Given its reputation as the prime technical vocational training centre for engineering trades and business studies in Zambia, NORTEC was selected as the most appropriate host institution for the BMET course.

Why Biomedical Engineering Technologists (BMETs)?

BMETs fix, maintain and manage medical equipment within a hospital or health centre setting. BMETs are crucial to the medical equipment life cycle, advising on procurement, initial inspection and installation, data collection, instruction on use and maintenance, development of preventive maintenance plans, corrective maintenance and repair, end of use, and decommissioning

Medical Equipment in Zambia

Zambia faces many of the challenges related to medical equipment typical of developing countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa.  It is estimated that between 35 and 50% of medical equipment in Zambia is currently out of service.

  • Very little data is available on the state of medical equipment across the country, and there is no nationwide inventory.
  • Zambia is operating with about 35% of recommended maintenance staff.
  • Health posts have, on average, about 40% of their required equipment based on standard lists.
  • Over 60% of medical equipment in Zambia is over 10 years old.
  • Much of the equipment not in use can be repaired very easily.
  • Very few current maintenance staff possess relevant qualifications.
  • There are 20 total biomedical engineering workshops across the country, and only at level 2 and 3 hospitals. At district level, cold chain specialists are relied on to provide equipment maintenance services.


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Read more about Why Medical Equipment Matters

Watch the opening of the workshop in Ndola on Zambian TV