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Making Medical Equipment Work

Medical Equipment is vital in producing better health outcomes by improving the access to safe and appropriate equipment for medical procedures.

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In the last decade...

THET have become an intrinsic part of the global movement to increase awareness of the importance of Health Technology Management (HTM).

Through collaborations with the Ministry of Health to the co-production of research with the WHO and membership of PQMD, we have seen the wide reaching consequences improvements in training and precedence given is to strengthening health systems from their core.

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Why medical equipment matters…

The proper functioning and maintenance of medical equipment is essential in achieving THET’s vision of a world where everyone has access to healthcare.
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.

Delivering medical equipment to developing countries is important, but if you don’t have local technicians who know how to maintain and fix the equipment, it falls into disrepair within a short time. It is even more important that quality training is provided in the most sustainable way. We have been pleased to work with THET in an initiative to strengthen Biomedical Engineering Professional Associations in sub-Saharan Africa – an important step in gaining better recognition for this important part of the health workforce.

Asha Varghese, Director of Global Health at the GE Foundation.

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