“It takes a team”
What’s the point in giving out free medical equipment if the recipients don’t know how to use it or take care of it?
That’s one of the challenges that our capacity building programme looks to address. And to help us, Mercy Ships has partnered with a UK social enterprise that trains biomedical technicians called Medical Aid International (Med Aid).
“What Mercy Ships has done is so fantastic,” says Tim Beacon, managing director of Med Aid. “They listened to the issue, and in response put in place the capacity to change it.”
Beacon and a team from Med Aid have been leading our biomedical training on the ground in Cameroon – and so far they have taught 11 local technicians how to maintain the equipment that Mercy Ships has donated to them. Med Aid also help to source this equipment.
“Our capacity building programme is all about sustainable partnerships,” says the programme’s director, Kirstie Randall. “We can’t go and source all of this equipment by ourselves, so it’s amazing to partner with an organisation like Med Aid that provides surgical equipment and trains biomedical technicians. It takes a team.”
Training the local people in Cameroon to use brand new equipment presents several challenges that require Med Aid’s expertise. “We can just tell the way participants hold tools or use test equipment whether they’ve done anything similar before,” says Sean Ryder, Med Aid’s head of biomedical engineering. “We’re open to the fact that their training before has either been not very much or they’ve been taught incorrectly. We provide a clean slate to bring everyone up to the same level.
“From my perspective, if I’m asking biomed technicians to do the same job I do, but I don’t provide them with the same equipment that I have, then there’s a problem. Everything I have access to, I want them to have access to, as well as two years of support connection with us to help them if they need.”
While training and supporting these individuals, a focus is placed on how the knowledge will then be passed on to their colleagues, so it can be shared as widely as possible. “We teach the course participants how to teach,” says Beacon, “and how to do first aid. We’re very much working on pushing this project wider afield, so in remote towns they can get biomed support.
“Mercy Ships are a dream team to work with. They know what they know but also know what they don’t know. It’s a great partnership with real outcomes.”
Course participant Salomon Kodna Kwete, biomedical technician at Laquintinie Hospital, Douala
“I’ve really appreciated this course training because it’s very practical; they make sure you really know what you’re doing and how the tools work. They take time to teach you the basics – to put safety first and how to properly use the electronics and equipment so that they will last for a much longer time.”