Prepare Equipment for Donation
Evaluating, preparing and even repairing medical equipment bound for developing countries is one of the most interesting and rewarding activities a Chapter can undertake. Some hospitals in developed countries replace medical equipment with newer models as often as every three or four years. This creates a large surplus of medical equipment that has been decommissioned from developed world hospitals, and much of this equipment is still serviceable.
Numerous charities have formed to manage equipment donations, shipping donations to hospitals and clinics in developing countries where it can improve the ability of local health care providers to offer diagnosis and treatment to their patients. In many cases, these charities do not have the means to evaluate and repair equipment before shipment. As a result, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as much as 80 percent of donated equipment does not work in developing countries. In fact, much of the donated equipment is not working before it is donated. By working with equipment donation charities, EWH Chapters can help improve this situation.
There are numerous reasons that donated medical equipment might not be functional. Sometimes the solutions are quite simple—the equipment may be missing an essential accessory, such as a power cable, patient electrode cables for an ECG, or an arm cuff for a non-invasive blood pressure (NIBP) machine. Sometimes the machine is actually functional, but the group that delivers it and the developing world technicians are not able to get it to work due to a lack of experience with the machine and/or suitable documentation to determine its proper operation.
EWH Chapters can provide equipment evaluation services to charities and other donating organizations to ensure that the equipment they ship is functional, complete, and packaged in such a way to facilitate its proper implementation in the developing world. Chapters can accomplish these goals by ensuring that each piece of donated equipment is functional and has all of its essential accessories shipped with it. It is also best if Chapters can talk with the people who will deliver the equipment and make sure they understand how to use it properly. Providing an operator’s manual from the manufacturer or simple usage instructions in the native language of the target hospital can also increase the chances of the equipment being put into service.
Starting an equipment evaluation and repair program at your Chapter:
There are several issues to resolve before you begin an equipment evaluation program at your Chapter.
- What groups might your Chapter want to partner with?
- Who will instruct Chapter members in the evaluation of medical equipment and/or supervise equipment evaluation sessions?
- When and where will evaluation sessions take place?
Starting an equipment evaluation program at your Chapter will take some determination and a significant amount of preliminary legwork. This type of program might not work for every Chapter, but for some Chapters, it becomes a central focus that can be quite rewarding.
EWH can help your Chapter find a local charity with which to partner. You might investigate local connections available through your university, or even try some Google searches to identify local charities. Still, it may not be possible to find a suitable partner for every Chapter, depending on the unique situation at each location.
Resources for successful equipment evaluation and repair:
EWH's BMET Library is an excellent resource. It contains manuals, troubleshooting guides and the book Medical Instrumentation in the Developing World by our co-founder, Professor Robert Malkin. This book is an essential guide for evaluating and repairing medical equipment for the developing world, and we send a copy with each of the EWH Summer Institute participants on their hospital visits. It contains useful information about the proper function of each type of equipment you are most likely to encounter, along with detailed instructions about how to determine whether it is working and how to fix it.
THET has also developed an exellent guide for medical equipment donation called Making it Work, it can be found here:
Other useful resources can be provided by the equipment manufacturers. Many types of equipment come with instructions adhered to the machine or attached in the machine in the form of sliding pull-out cards. If possible, track down the operator’s manual from the organization that received the equipment donation or the hospital that originally donated it. This might not always be possible, so you may have to resort to looking for informational materials online. If you contact the manufacturer and explain the charitable purpose of your work with their equipment, they will sometimes agree to send you a free copy of their operator’s manual, or service manual if repairs are necessary.
EWH strongly recommends that you have an advisor present at all equipment evaluation and repair sessions. This person can be your faculty advisor or another qualified faculty member. You may wish to find a professional engineer or biomedical equipment technician in addition to or instead of a faculty advisor at these events. EWH can try to help you identify a local engineer or technician who is interested in working with your Chapter.
Establishing a successful equipment evaluation program at your Chapter will take a considerable amount of effort and planning. You may find that it is beyond the scope of what is reasonable for your Chapter to accomplish, especially as you are first starting your Chapter. Still, the potential benefits of this work to the developing world can be quite substantial.