Biomedical Equipment Donations With Training Lead to Sustainability
By Charles Redding
Medical equipment is essential for safe and effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. However, there continues to be a significant gap in the availability of quality, functional biomedical equipment in the developing world. In fact, The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the medical equipment in developing countries is donated. The unfortunate reality is that the WHO also estimates that 40-70 percent of this donated equipment goes unused because of poor standards around international aid.
At MedShare, we hear stories of equipment left idle because they do not have spare parts or the tools to properly diagnose or repair the equipment. We hear stories of equipment donated with the wrong voltage, without transformers, and without communicating with the intended end users. This creates a mismatch with devastating consequences. What good is a CT-Scan when you donate it to a facility that has no healthcare workers with training to use it or steady electricity to keep it operational? Meanwhile, in high-income countries less than 1 percent of medical equipment is out of service.
These problems can be solved. Hospitals need trained biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) to maintain and repair medical equipment to keep it in working order. BMETs also install new equipment and train hospital staff on how to correctly use equipment. With specialized training in healthcare technology management, BMETs provide a sustainable solution to keeping medical equipment functional.
It is true that donations of medical equipment can improve access to quality healthcare and improve health outcomes by allowing for some of the surplus from high resource settings to be passed to low resource settings. However, if poorly executed, donations could turn into a burden for the recipient, wasting an enormous amount of money, human resources and time, with long term implications of crippled healthcare systems and amassing environmental burden.
MedShare recently donated a set of very high quality electrical beds donated by Hill-Rom to a remote community hospital in Ecuador. Almost immediately we received communication that the beds were “inoperable.” Our engineer was on a plane shortly afterwards to help address the issue with a very disgruntled partner. Upon his arrival, and to his surprise, he noticed that the beds had not been plugged into an electrical outlet. The hospital was not used to electrical beds. They had only received manual crank beds and were not aware of the functionality of the electrical version.
To address the dilemma of donated medical equipment sitting idle in healthcare facilities, MedShare invests significant time and resources in a biomedical equipment training and repair service that aims to provide the safest and highest quality medical equipment to our recipients. MedShare’s Biomedical Equipment Training & Repair Service focuses on providing quality, functional medical equipment — including biomedical engineering training — to those in need. We focus on the principles of quality donations and sustainability. These include:
- Healthcare equipment donations that benefit the recipient to every extent possible;
- Donations of equipment respecting the wishes and authority of the recipient, and conforming with World Health Organization’s guidelines, government policies and administrative arrangements for the recipient country;
- There are no double standards in quality. If the quality of an item is unacceptable in the U.S., it is also unacceptable as a donation;
- Effective communication between the donor and the recipient, with all donations made according to a plan;
- Ongoing sustainability service that trains end-users, biomedical technicians and engineers in the operation, maintenance and servicing of medical equipment.
As medical technology becomes increasingly complicated to operate and repair, the need for highly trained medical technicians is fundamental for hospitals and clinics worldwide. MedShare’s Biomedical Equipment Training & Repair Service has an immediate and significant impact on strengthening and sustaining global health systems. Our team of professionally trained biomedical engineers and technicians service all medical equipment before delivery and work closely with equipment manufacturing partners such as Philips and local universities in metro Atlanta and San Francisco to provide hands-on training to over 2,500 students enrolled in Georgia and California technical institutions.
Additionally, we send biomedical engineers to various countries to provide pre-assessments and hands-on training to end-users, engineers, technicians and healthcare professionals. MedShare has trained over 7,000 engineers, technicians and end-users on how to properly repair and maintain biomedical equipment.
Here’s how you can help:
- Donate used or new biomed equipment with instruction manuals, if possible
- Allow your BMETs and students to volunteer to assess and repair equipment at one of our MedShare locations
- Participate on one of our Biomedical Training & Repair Mission Trips
- Donate money to purchase spare parts, maintenance kits and offset travel
- For more information contact us at Info@medshare.org.
Examples of types of equipment needed:
- Hospital Beds
- Anesthesia Machines
- Patient Monitors
- Exam Tables
- OR Tables