GE Foundation, the philanthropic organisation of General Electric, has collaborated with Duke University’s Developing World Healthcare Technology Laboratory and Engineering World Health to develop a new Biomedical Equipment Technician Training (BMET) project in Nigeria aimed at addressing the paucity of qualified medical technicians in the country for service and repair of biomedical equipment.
The Foundation will also collaborate with Nigeria’s Health Ministry on the grant program worth $1.5 million, to establish a BMET school and create a Centre of Excellence (COE) in coordination with Federal School of Biomedical Engineering Technology at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), building on the success of similar programs in Ghana, Honduras, Rwanda and Cambodia. The grant payment will be spread over three years.
Statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that 50-80 percent of medical equipment in low-income countries is out of service – 50 percent in Nigeria. Of hospitals surveyed in Africa, 85 percent report difficulty finding qualified medical engineers to repair and service medical equipment.
GE Foundation’s Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer, David M. Barash, M.D. said sub-Saharan Africa has suffered shortage of functional medical equipment, which has affected effective delivery of medical care. The BMET, according to Barash is going to change that.
He added that the program delivers a structured curriculum for the development of “a pipeline of locally accredited engineers”.
Chief Engineering Officer at Engineering World Health, Edward Hutton noted that equipment across Africa sit idle due to lack of skilled engineers to install, maintain or repair them, but said the BMET training program will bring about a change.
The program is tailored towards the need of each country and that is the significance of the partnership with Duke University’s Developing World Technology Lab, headed by Dr. Robert Malkin to provide the needed curricula.
Medical tourism has become very popular in Nigeria as those who need high-tech medical equipment for diagnosis or treatment have had to travel out of the country for medical care as paucity of qualified medical technicians in the country for service and repair of biomedical equipment has not encouraged medical institutions who can afford them to buy.
According to the Nigeria Medical Association, the country loses $800 million to medical tourism annually. The BMET training is therefore a boost not for the Biomedical Engineering profession, but also for the country’s economy.