In hospitals, it takes a whole team of professionals and staff to create a safe environment that protects each and every patient that comes through the door. While most recognize the need for skilled doctors and nurses, less value is given to biomedical engineering teams. Even so, biomedical engineering professionals are critical to ensuring patient safety.
On a recent site assessment in Ethiopia, the Assist International team identified situations where a single biomedical equipment technician’s walkthrough could have prevented serious health hazards and equipment waste.
First, we found a power strip in a hospital attached to two infant warmers. The metal prongs on the power cord of these two infant warmers were blackened, and the sockets were partially melted. Worse still, a baby was in one of the two infant warmers.
The blackened and melted sockets were likely caused by selecting the wrong type of power strip for use with the infant warmer. If left as-is, it could irreparably damage the infant warmer and cost the hospital thousands of dollars to replace. But most urgently, electrical problems like these create fire hazards; in a room containing oxygen cylinders, this becomes highly dangerous for the baby in the infant warmer, and the other patients and clinicians as well.
Later, in a not-so-far-away surgical recovery ward, the team found two patient monitors that weren’t being used. Upon closer inspection, they powered up just fine. These two much-needed devices were out-of-service because of a few replaceable sensors. A technician with access to replacement parts could likely get those monitors back into working order.
We see situations like these in far too many of the hospitals we visit. There aren’t enough trained technicians looking out for electrical safety, and the funds allocated for device maintenance just aren’t enough to keep things in working order. In the end, it’s the patient that suffers. A critical machine could be just a few feet away, but if it isn’t ready when a nurse reaches for it, then it can’t be used to help that patient.
As a part of the Safe Surgery 2020 initiative, Assist International gets to participate in partnerships that strengthen hospitals with training programs. This builds skills and empowers BMETs to impart positive changes on their healthcare systems, creating better patient care. At Assist International, we know BMETs add value to the healthcare ecosystem – through training and advocacy, we hope to make sure the rest of the world knows too.