A campaign to repair medical equipment is set to begin with an outlay of 170 million Br as part of a nationwide programme to revitalise the health sector.

A dozen public hospitals in Addis Abeba, such as Black Lion, Yekatit 12 and St. Paul's, will be part of the campaign. The city Health Bureau is partnering with the Ministry of Health (MoH) in launching the campaign, which will include 190 health institutions across the country.

An initial assessment discovered that more than 5,000 pieces of medical equipment require servicing, maintenance or replacement, with most of them being found in hospitals in the capital. Seife Demissie, director of Pharmaceuticals Supply & Service at the Addis Abeba Health Bureau, says the assessment made in Addis Abeba was more extensive due to the equipment's higher volume and sophistication.

"Hospitals in Addis Abeba don't serve the city's inhabitants only, rather the entire nation, as patients come from all over the country," Seife toldFortune.

The Addis Abeba Health Bureau will receive close to 20 million Br of this budget, according to health officials.

However, regional states such as Oromia, Afar and Amhara have already kicked off the campaign led by their respective health bureaus.

The city's Health Bureau and the Ministry have listed priority areas, topped by the assessment and repair of equipment critical in providing COVID-19 treatment. These include oxygen concentrators, oxygen tanks and mechanical ventilators. The Health Bureau has distributed 2,000 oxygen tanks to hospitals since the pandemic broke out, hoping to facilitate oxygen supplies. However, the supply of oxygen has gotten worrisome as demand surges in tandem with the number of cases and disruptions in production.

The campaign for this segment will be concluded in about two weeks. A team of 46 specialists from universities, TVETs, pharmaceutical suppliers, the Ministry and the Health Bureau will be assigned to the 12 hospitals, according to Regassa Bayisa, head of the Pharmaceuticals & Medical Equipment Directorate at the Ministry.

After completing the repair of COVID-19 treatment tools, the Bureau plans to restore surgical, intensive care unit, maternal health and laboratory equipment. Each of these categories might take two weeks to complete.

The campaign aims to repair and make use of equipment that has just been sitting idle in storage since they were bought, according to Regassa.

"We also want a knowledge transference to happen between the hospital staff and the campaign team," Regassa told Fortune.

The case for Black Lion is not as simple. The Hospital, as a better-equipped public health centre in the country, has a large stock. A simple campaign might not solve it, echo officials from the Hospital. Campaigns are not the answers, say people knowledgeable of the state of medical equipment.

The issue is a serious national challenge and goes far beyond a single hospital, Yirgu Gebrehiwot (MD), director of clinical services at Black Lion Hospital, said. Much of the equipment is bought from different manufacturers, and health centres tend to buy low-quality items to save money.

"The problem will persist as long as health centres continue to buy equipment from various suppliers with little to no track record," Yirgu said.

The effort of the Ministry should not be downplayed as the campaign will address basic and acute problems, according to Dawit Assefa (PhD), assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the Addis Abeba Institute of Technology. He believes that figuring out the root causes of the problem should be the next step.

"The whole value chain system should be reviewed," he said.

Upon procurement of medical equipment or accepting donations, understanding the specifications, purpose and deployment of the equipment should be given due consideration, Dawit advised. Proper preventive and corrective maintenance mechanisms should also be put in place with regularity, he said.

"Otherwise, we might need to have a campaign every day," he added.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 03,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1092]

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