When we consider the importance of machines in saving lives, it becomes clear that the acquisition of equipment cannot be done in isolation…
A pregnant woman is rushed into a hospital where talented surgeons, anaesthesiologists, obstetricians and nurses work tirelessly to save both mother and child. The mother delivers a beautiful baby boy, three months premature. After six weeks in the hospital, most of which is spent in an incubator, the baby is finally able to go home with his overjoyed mother and father. As the family leave, they make sure to thank the doctors, the nurses, cleaners, receptionist and everyone who they came in contact with during what was one of the most difficult time in their lives, but one that thankfully had a happy ending.
No one ever stops to thank the incubators that kept the baby safe as it developed, or the anaesthesia machines that enable the doctors to operate on the mother or the MRI chines whose detailed images help doctors identify internal ailments or the many other critical life-saving machines that play a role in saving precious lives.
When everything goes well, no one stops to imagine what would happen if these machines were not working, if there was no incubator to keep the baby safe while he developed his under-formed internal organs. No one stops to imagine the unimaginable, until the imaginable does happen.
The reality is that no matter how skilled and experienced a doctor or nurse is, there is a limit to what they can do with just their skills and passion. In the absence of the vital life-saving equipment required for effective diagnosis, testing and treatment, these talented doctors and nurses simply cannot save lives.
According to the National Demographics and Health Survey (NDHS, 2013), Nigeria loses as many as 576 women per 100,000 childbirths and 37 newborn deaths per 1,000 live births, placing the country among the worst ratios for both maternal and newborn deaths globally. Worse still, it is estimated that about 90% of these deaths are preventable with essential interventions (availability of professional care/vital devices) reaching women and newborns on time.
Many of these interventions are impossible without properly functioning medical equipment and unfortunately most of the medical equipment in Nigerian hospitals no longer function efficiently and, in most cases, no longer function at all. This means that many mums and babies who would have otherwise lived are sent to an early avoidable grave.
When we consider the critical importance of machines in saving lives, and the costs of acquiring these machines in the first place, it becomes clear that the acquisition of equipment through either donations, lease, or loans, purchase or any other means cannot be done in isolation but must be completed with the availability of a skilled technical workforce that has the ability to use these machines properly and to keep them humming for years to come.
If this is not the case, new machines soon graduate to decorative pieces of furniture lining the corridors of hospital instead of performing the life-saving duties they were meant to perform.
This is why Coca-Cola, through its Safe Birth Initiative (SBI) which is donating critical life-saving medical equipment to hospitals across Nigeria, teamed up Engineering World Health to deliver intensive training programmes to technicians from the beneficiary hospitals to ensure that the machines perform their fundamental raison d’être – saving lives – for many years to come.
SBI is focused on supporting doctors and nurses to achieve successful birth outcomes by strengthening the capacity of target public hospitals in three critical areas. These three areas are: the procurement of vital maternal and neonatal medical equipment and supplies to enable safe deliveries and post-delivery emergency cares; training biomedical engineering technicians to improve equipment maintenance and uptime; and reactivating a large stock of abandoned medical equipment wasting away in public hospitals.
The programme recently celebrated the graduation of the first set of biomedical engineering technicians who had undergone the intensive two-week capacity training, focused on improving equipment maintenance and uptime, at the School of Biomedical Engineering, Lagos University Teaching Hospital. The technicians came from 10 leading medical institutions across the country, comprising university hospitals, federal medical centres and general hospitals.
SBI was conceived by Coca-Cola in early 2017. It was fully developed and is being implemented in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMH), the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP/ SDGs) and Medshare International Inc (Medshare).
The initiative has been extended to Ivory Coast and exploratory discussions are ongoing in some other countries in the West Africa sub-region, including Senegal.
Bolarinwa is a lawyer and health advocate. She is the founder of Haima Health Initiative and President of the Sickle Cell Aid Foundation (SCAF).