Technology that could save lives in villages

Dr Mpoki Ulisubisya (left) and Dr Sweetbert Ansbert go through a booklet on high-tech anaesthesia machines that can work without electricity. PHOTO| COURTESY OF GRADIAN HEALTH SYSTEMS

Dar es Salaam. Medics in Tanzania are undergoing training on how to apply high tech anaesthesia machines that can function in the absence of electricity or compressed oxygen.

The Universal Anaesthesia Machines (UAM), were introduced in Tanzania after the government partnered with a US-based technology company, Gradian Health Systems to supply them to the neediest regions of the country.

Anaesthesia care is necessary for any surgical procedure, but in Tanzania, the lack of trained anaesthesia staff, infrastructure and equipment leads to high rates of preventable death and disability, particularly in rural regions.

To ensure that the technology spreads in Tanzania, Gradian Health Systems and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (Muhas) launched a simulation skills lab where a certified team of instructors from the university are now training more than 100 UAM users who are already in practice or are completing their medical training.

Skilled medics and well-equipped hospitals are necessary, yet, more challenging is the fact anesthesia care requires reliable electricity and supplies of medical oxygen—which is often expensive or unavailable.

The UAMs, which are now touted as a better strategy for improving anaethesia care in Tanzania, is the world’s first internationally-certified anesthesia machine that can generate its own medical oxygen and work without power. This can save valuable time, money and lives during surgery. To date, more than 200 Tanzanian health facilities have been equipped with the UAM—an investment of more than $3 million.

In most rural hospitals of Tanzania, anesthesia equipment and supplies are either old, broken or nonexistent in rural settings—leaving health providers to manage patients with less effective, riskier methods of care.

Due in part to challenges around anesthesia, roughly 1 woman and four newborns die during childbirth every hour; in that same time.

Experts believe that improved access to anesthesia care in remote settings of Tanzania will bring safe surgery closer to where emergencies occur—saving the lives of women, children and other surgical patients every day.

Later this year, Gradian will be launching additional simulation laboratories at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) and Bugando Medical Centre (BMC), and rolling out a number of local training and mentorship programmes in high-need regions.

This is a public-private partnership which is part of the Tanzanian government’s efforts to reduce maternal and newborn mortality under its current Health Sector Strategic Plan.

It also lies at the heart of the recently-adopted National Surgical, Obstetric and Anaesthesia Plan (NSOAP)—laying a foundation for better, more accessible anesthesia care in every corner of the country.

It is now believed that public-private partnership (PPP) which combines specialised training facilities with world-class technology can transform anesthesia care in every region of Tanzania.

According to experts, improved access to anaesthesia care in remote settings of Tanzania will bring safe surgery closer to where emergencies occur—saving the lives of women, children and other surgical patients every day.