Co-written with Summer Institute Manager Maddy Bishop-Van Horn.
At Engineering World Health, and more generally in the international development field, we often use the term “low-resource” — but what does this term mean for biomedical technicians and engineers?
In high-income countries, when equipment breaks down, either a new component is ordered from the manufacturer or the entire machine is replaced.
Often, neither of these options is available in low-resource settings. The vast majority of medical equipment is manufactured in high-income countries such as the United States, Germany, and Japan. Much of the equipment found in low-income country hospitals is donated, without access to customer service, user training, or sometimes even instruction manuals. While more generic spare parts may be easy to find in the countries where we work, specialized parts such as equipment-specific light bulbs and printed circuit boards are challenging if not impossible to find and replace. Even if the part itself is very inexpensive, if it can’t be found in-country, it can cost hundreds of dollars and take several months to ship to the hospital. Parts must be ordered from the manufacturer or specific dealers. There is no 2-hour Amazon Prime shipping in Kigali, Rwanda… yet.