It has been a year now since our previous newsletter came out, and what a year it has been! All of our field operations were put on hold when the Coronavirus Pandemic first kicked off here in Europe back in February 2020, and we have still not been able to send our volunteers out to any of our programs in either Uganda or Zambia, and as the latest wave of the virus has now taken a grip on southern Uganda, we are still unclear as to when we will be sending volunteers overseas again.
However, this doesn’t mean we have been totally inactive these last 12 months, as like everyone else we have adapted to the new reality b y taking everything (and I mean everything!) online. We began by putting together a completely new website with the invaluable help of Maurizio Stella, partner of one of our Uganda Programme volunteers, who is an expert in this sort of thing. The new site was finally published in July last year and seems to be getting a lot more hits and interest than the old one. Do please pay it (and us) a visit at www.amaltheatrust.org.uk .
The next thing was to move all of our admin online by putting everything onto Google Drive. This not only means that we can all work from anywhere but makes all of our documentation much more accessible to those who need access as and when. Thanks again to Maurizio for leading the way on this.
Of course, we joined everyone else in many hours of meetings over Zoom, Teams and Google Meet, and several of these were to further the continuing work of ENMELC (The European Network of Medical Engineering for Low Resource Countries) in working towards some guidelines for testing and calibration of devices in the absence of proper calibration and testing equipment. The intention is to make available a series of online sheets to advise on low tech alternatives to these often-unavailable items of equipment, and a couple of our volunteers have made valuable contributions.
One potentially new area that we have piloted this last 6 months is online practical sessions using two-way conference facilities over Zoom. The first was with Evelyn Hone College in Zambia on 24th April. Our partners in the Zambia Program, The Tropical Health Education Trust (THET) got the Lusaka end organised and we ran the session from Hilditch Group’s superb BME facilities at Malmesbury at the UK end. Hilditch Group gave us access to a wide range of equipment so that we were able to use very similar models to those at Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka which meant that our volunteers could talk their students through the various steps involved in fault-finding and maintenance. The session lasted a total of 6 hours and was deemed a great success.
Jas Bikhu (Wolverhampton New Cross Hospital), Andy Barrow (Kent Hospitals) and Roger Sanders (Hilditch Group) demonstrate common fault finding on ICU equipment.
We followed up this inaugural Zoom session with another in July aimed at newly qualified BMEs working for Biogenics in Uganda – an organisation that offers BME services to Health centres that don’t have their own engineers. This time the focus was on Ultrasound and Xray, and was delivered by Satish Thakar and Jas Bilkhu, ably assisted by Nazir Hamidi from Hilditch and our good friend Andy Barrow.
Andy, Jas and Satish at work.
Finally, we were very happy to attend this year’s EBME conference at the Milton Keynes Arena where Martin gave a short talk on our current work, and we had lots of interest from prospective new volunteers, which is of course our lifeblood. It was truly great to talk so many of you. Many thanks as ever to John Sandham and his team for putting on such a great event in such difficult times, and for allowing us to address the conference again as guests.
So, here’s hoping we’ll be back to volunteer postings before too long, but in the meanwhile we intend to do more of these online workshops in the coming months, so if any of you feel like giving up a day to help deliver a session, do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Amalthea Trust Team