If you’ve ever had an x-ray taken or had lab work done, you’ve benefited from the services of a biomedical equipment technician (BMET). BMETs are the staff responsible for installation, maintenance, calibration and repair of hospital equipment.
Until this year, Liberia had only three BMETs to serve the entire country. Fifteen additional BMETs completed a training program in Kenya in March. However, these are still not sufficient to meet the country’s needs. Like many developing nations, Liberia has received significant amounts of medical equipment in its hospitals through grants, Ministry of Health purchases, and many years of donations. The Ebola crisis in 2014-2015 further amplified the influx of equipment. The absence of people trained in using and maintaining this equipment makes it much less effective, and potentially even dangerous, as a malfunctioning machine can lead to misdiagnoses. Response times for repair vary depending on the accessibility of the geographical area in which equipment is located. Repair wait times for hospitals can be weeks, and repairs that involve replacing parts can take even longer. These delays cause detrimental health outcomes for Liberians.
As part of its career pathways effort, EdSystems has been working in Liberia and Tanzania since 2013 and 2015 respectively. The work informs our efforts in Illinois and we apply lessons from Illinois to both countries. In April and May staff spent time in Liberia strategizing with key stakeholders on how to fund and implement a BMET training program locally. The program will be a partnership with the ministries of health and education, Liberia Career Pathways, Engineering World Health (EWH), and Booker Washington Institute (BWI) — the lead vocational training public school in the country. Training will include classroom lectures, supervised laboratory work, and in-hospital work in at least three hospitals under the guidance of a mentor. Additionally, we will implement a train-the-trainer program to ensure sustainability of the program. Further, high school students from BWI will participate in a career awareness and exploration program designed to enhance their knowledge about careers in the healthcare sector in general, and in the BMET sector.