Many years ago, there was a genius at Shanta Bhawan Hospital (now Patan Hospital) called Pettibone who was highly skilled in repairing biomedical equipment.
When the stethoscope or the ophthalmoscope (an instrument to examine the eye) broke down, he fixed them magically. The handiman also took care of the lab equipment, X-ray machines, and operating room instruments expertly.
Only when I moved to another hospital in town did I realise the importance of technicians who handle biomedical equipment. Many equipment were in a state of disrepair at my new workplace. Instruments which were otherwise in good condition, but for their blown fuses were left to rust in the corner while the authorities ordered new machines because no one knew how to fix the fuse.
Unfortunately, even today where we have become increasingly dependent on hi-tech medical equipment the problem continues. Studies have shown that more than half of all hospital equipment in Nepal is broken and very few function at their optimal level. Basic precautionary measures would have avoided this situation and simple repairs can restore their function.
So it is heartening to know that the National Health Training Centre together with the Nick Simons Institute are introducing a Biomedical Equipment Technician program. Depending on their education level and time availablity, participants can attend a one year, two months, and even a two week long program.
The one year program requires a 10+2 certificate and provides six months of classroom training and six months practical training after which graduates will be able to run biomedical departments in mid-sized hospitals. The training will take place at the National Health Training Centre in Teku.
We usually assume that doctors and nurses do all the work in a hospital. But consider this scenario for a second: a patient is brought to the emergency room with chest pain, a cardiac monitor is attached to her, an oxygen machine delivers oxygen and other equipment may be used for assessment. If these vital instruments don't work properly or malfunction and give incorrect readings it could turn out to be fatal.
The wellbeing of patients certainly depends on the expertise of health care professionals, but equally important are the medical technicians who calibrate these instruments on a timely basis, and when necessary promptly trouble shoot. No wonder sometimes we thought Pettibone was an actual magician.