Life in Gondar & Bio-Medical Engineering Development

The Gondar scene

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Resurfacing the main road

Although the Gondar area has witnessed its share of ‘ups and downs’ over the past year or so, all now seems to be at peace - for the present anyway. On arrival late last year to a town that had been, a short while before, in the international press, it had, by then, lost any signs that there had been any civil disobedience, save for one lonely reminder to the main disturbance mid-year - that of a truly ‘gutted’ Salem bus - left in the place where it had been well and truly ‘felled’.

The people themselves too have, on the surface, seemingly been happily carrying on life to the full and thus ‘business as usual’. This has been confirmed not only with the passing of a successful Timkat, but also with the passing of at least three very successful football matches here recently. These all held in the stadium here with crowds of literally thousands to greet visiting national teams from as far away as Addis Ababa.

The local team is called Fasil kaminar, wearing the colours of red and white - colours which allow me to sport my Father Christmas hat and thus blend in superbly with the best of the supporters when they win – ‘’Leicester City eat your heart out this year’’.

On the hospital campus

Thanks to the obvious enthusiasm and motivation of Dr. Annisa, the CEO of now one-year standing, and Dr. Meseret, the Clinical Director, there are plenty of signs of their achievements. From the non-clinical aspect, daily construction work goes on apace. The first being the laying of gondar-cobblestones upon the previously ‘bush-grade’ road connecting the upper side of the hospital campus, with the new Referral OPD and the other new hospital areas, on the lower side.

It is also very pleasing to see that one of the two unfinished hospitals - that soon to be the Department of Paediatrics - is now once again under construction with signs of internal rooms now being fitted out as well.

Although the new Department of Surgery is still lying dormant, the adjoining new construction for Maternity is well underway, with recent expansion - as is the upward movement with now an additional floor factored in, of the new Oncology Deptment building nearby. Concrete too is flowing daily into the two ‘bunkers’ that will house the new Linear Accelerators.

Thanks also to Dr Annisa’s determined efforts since his arrival as CEO, the hospital has been promised continuous electrical power which, when it does go ahead, will have a tremendous impact in reducing the overall equipment ‘casualties’ in the clinical arena alone, This will have been well worth the combined effort of all involved in securing this longed-for change.

On the clinical front, Dr Meseret, having full responsibility for clinical projects and issues has given full support to the Link in our patient safety programme this year, and for this we have been very grateful.

The Biomedical Project

On arrival here in November, it was clear that manpower remains a key issue for us and one that the hospital is still doing its best to address. In the mean time, a well qualified engineer from Gondar - who currently has been given the Head position in the University’s new Biomedical Engineering Department - has just been given the ‘authority’ by Dr Annisa to lead our department, as well as continue to run that of the University. The two departments working together will have great potential to achieve much in the future, both in teaching and in the very necessary area of maintenance.

The Link wishes to congratulate Gondar University on having recently received approval to run their very own Bachelor Degree course in Biomedical Engineering – students from the initial batch now well on their way into their preliminary studies. Running this course in Gondar is being viewed here as leading Gondar to be a future ‘’Centre of Excellence’’ in Hospital Engineering.

At present, this ‘tour of duty’, has again ensured that the Link’s contribution to GUH is one that encompasses all areas that require specialized knowledge that otherwise is not readily available to them here. On the work-front, in addition to last year, we have taken on all the equipment in the new Referral Hospital and the new Dialysis Unit.

The real challenges met this time around have included, but not been limited to, much work in the new hospital encompassing the following technical areas: sharing expertise with the electricians on issues they have faced around the new installations of both a high capacity power transformer and emergency generators; reviving the Laboratory’s air-conditioning system; repair of their water-storage plant gear; attempting to resolve on-going issues with the CSSD autoclaves; numerous power and switch-gear issues including an initial exposure to dealing with issues around the lift mechanics and, lastly, setting up an effective, albeit interim, mini-PACS system for Radiology image-reporting – images from their new digital X-Ray and ultrasound units, plus their CT scanners.

Although the MRI project has encountered a delay, it looks now as if work will shortly be resumed on construction in the suite and, if all goes well, we could see the beginning of the scanner’s installation sometime later this year.

A Korean representation came again to evaluate our Biomedical Department’s needs here. We wait to hear of their findings and any proposed future ‘plan of action’ they may carry out on our behalf. Meanwhile, following the recently agreed allocation of space for our new biomedical workshop in the new Paediatric Hospital building, the Korean’s have now agreed to begin the fitting-out, both with furniture and fitments, of the interior, along with providing basic essential tools and test-equipment – a project they have been generously offering to a handful of major Ministry of Health / University Hospital Biomedical Engineering

Departments here in Ethiopia.

Nick Brown - Photo 400px.jpg
Timkat—Celebrating the Baptism of Christ

An unexpected call from one of the out-lying hospitals higher up in the Simien Mountains, in the small town of Debark, presented a technical challenge when they requested assistance to repair an old X-Ray unit that had been out of action for nearly a year. It had already been ‘’worked on’’, with a view to being repaired, by two independent Ethiopian technicians during this time but without success. ‘Leicester-Link’ quietly paid a visit and they are now back-on-track continuing to serve the region’s mountain-community there.

Finally, in July the workshop will be receiving the three trained technicians who will have graduated from the technical training school in Debre Marcos. All in all, by mid-year we should have the first signs of an active department, albeit still very small. We hope they will be enthusiastic in tackling the lower-level of repairs that will await them. Even with this welcomed change, we still have a long way to go.

And now to round off this ‘tour of duty’ in Gondar - a surprise for one who has been away from ‘The Motherland’ bravely weathering the ‘stress’ of living under a ‘’State of Emergency’’ for such a while. There can be little to beat unexpectedly being offered a generous piece of chocolate (birthday) cake - bought and brought over, within the 24 hours prior to the eating - from that icon of the British High Street, Marks and Spencers. How often it is the little things that can mean the most.

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