MedShare abroad: Meridith travels with Director of Biomedical Engineering, Eben Amstrong

During this MedShare visit in Guatemala, I am delighted that our talented Director of Biomedical Engineering and Technical Services, Eben Amstrong, is doing training and repair sessions here in Santiago Atitlán and also in Antigua and Guatemala City.

We know from years of experience (and as reported by the World Health Organization) that building biomedical equipment repair and maintenance capacity in-country is a critical part of strengthening health systems.  MedShare is very grateful for the support of the Mundito Foundation in funding this important training and repair session trip. This type of capacity-building investment yields enormous returns for the community and enhances sustainability of MedShare’s work.  In straight-up business terms, the ROI is significant which – in our line of work – equates to more lives saved.

Eben and I were warmly welcomed this morning by the staff of Hospitalito Atitlán, and three days of intensive, hands-on training is underway for a lively group of 10 electricians, nurses, doctors and other hospital staff.  The group comes from three different hospitals/clinics. As there is not a biomedical training program in Guatemala, Eben is providing vitally needed training to build the skills of this dedicated group to maintain, repair and use key pieces of biomedical equipment.  Without this in-country capacity, equipment inevitably ends up in the corner of a hospital gathering dust….and potentially life-saving resources sit idle. Here at MedShare, we detest dusty equipment.  Dusty equipment represents good intentions with insufficient implementation.  Ugggghhhh!

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Luckily, Eben is truly a master trainer, and it has been wonderful to see the confidence and skills of the trainees grow after just one day. As an added bonus, the host hospital gets lots of free equipment repairs.  For example, an ultrasound that had not been working for quite awhile was repaired by a simple cleaning of a key component. The staff now knows how to perform this maintenance cleaning once per month to keep the equipment in working order.  This picture shows one of the trainees explaining what he has learned about the steps required to fix this problem should it reoccur.

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 Later today, a dedicated group of trainees decided to stay late and work with Eben on additional equipment repairs.  Shown here, Eben is explaining to the group how to diagnose a common problem with an electronic insufflator (a piece of equipment used to push air into the bowels during an endoscopic procedure).  A very common challenge with this equipment is that the tubing gets brittle and detaches.  It is simple and inexpensive to fix, but unless you know what to look for, the equipment is often declared “broken” (and likely to gather dust or become a door-stop). Henry, a local electrician that works at Hospitalito Atitlán, said at the end of the day, “One day of training with Eben is like reading 10 books.”

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 In the coming years, MedShare plans to grow our Biomedical Training and Technical Support program.  In order to expand, we must secure additional high-quality equipment donations from hospitals, clinics and manufacturers across the U.S. and also find funders seeking a high “social return” on their financial investment. If you are interested in supporting our Biomed Program or have ideas on how we can expand our impact, please contact MedShare’s Chief Operating Officer, Charles Redding at credding@medshare.org.

Until next time,

M

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