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Newsletter: Spring & Summer 2020

This latest edition of our newsletter comes out in a World profoundly changed from the last time it appeared. With a pandemic in full swing impacting so many people and economies around the World our healthcare systems have been thrown into the spotlight like never before. Of course Biomedical Engineers have been at the sharp end of the response alongside the other staff in hospitals and health centres around the globe, particularly as ventilators and other vital items of equipment have been such a key part of the fight to save so many lives. Our work in the under resourced healthcare systems of Sub-Saharan Africa has never been more important or pertinent.

Since the Autumn Newsletter our volunteers delivered yet another series of practical sessions in February/March for the students at Kyambogo University in Uganda, this time on Medical Gases and Anaesthesia, and Ultrasound. It was another successful semester and the volunteers were able to get back to the UK just before the travel restrictions in Uganda and the UK took effect. We were very happy to see them get home with no delays or issues. Whether or not we are able to deliver the next semester of practical sessions in the Spring of next year will depend very much on how the pandemic develops, but we will keep all of our potential volunteers informed through our website.

Back in December Jas Bilkhu was able to attend the graduation ceremony for the previous cohort of BMEs from the diploma program on our behalf, and here are some pictures of him with the teaching staff and some of the students at Kyambogo on the big day. Don’t they look great!

Whilst the volunteers were at Kyambogo Dave Robinson was reprising his work at FINS Medical University in Fortportal, the other side of the country in the foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains, where he was conducting user training with final year midwives and nurses. This is an area of our work which we would love to have the funds to expand further afield.

The above mention of our website leads me to the news that we are almost ready to go public with our brand new, more stylish and interactive website. We have been hugely helped with this by Maurizio Stella, the partner of one of our Kyambogo volunteers Daniella Sabella. Maurizio is a website designer and has done this on an entirely voluntary basis for which we are really grateful. The new site will also appear much higher up on any searches for Biomedical Engineering on Google thanks to our having received sizeable grants for free advertising by Google themselves. It is hoped that this will not only help to raise our online profile quite considerably, but also that the greater traffic may result in an increase in individual donations through the site towards our work overseas. It should be up and running at some point next month, so keep on surfing!

Another new development, already mentioned in the previous newsletter, is our ongoing collaboration with THET (The Tropical Health Education Trust) over BME training for Zambia. THET already support BME training at NORTEC in Ndola, but another main training centre turning out a lot of diploma graduates in BME is Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka. It is intended that Amalthea Trust partner with THET in a program to place pairs of our NHS volunteers there to teach practical skills on key items of equipment whilst also conducting in-service training/CPD with already serving BMEs in the hospitals in and around Lusaka.

Back in early March our Program Director, Martin Worster, went out to Lusaka on a scoping mission with the relevant THET personnel to engage with the relevant stakeholders and ascertain whether or not such a program was feasible and desirable. We are now waiting until the pandemic has receded somewhat before we start asking for volunteers for a pilot for this exciting new program. We will be in touch!

Many thanks to THET for facilitating the various meetings and site visits in Lusaka, and thanks too to Health England who are potentially co-funding the new program. They are interested in the experience and training potential for the NHS volunteers who go out there, which only goes to underline just how valuable the experience of volunteering with the Amalthea Trust can be for the volunteers themselves.

With so much uncertainty in the air, most particularly in terms of the availability of volunteer BMEs from our own NHS in these difficult times, we will do our best to keep you informed of developments in both Uganda and Zambia. With the funding period for the Ethiopia program at an end we have no new activities planned there for now but will also let you know if anything crops up.

So, stay well, and our very best wishes, and of course thanks, to all of our contacts in the BME fraternity of the NHS for all that you have been doing in the Covid-19 crisis these last few months. My clapping every Thursday evening is for you!

The Amalthea Trust Team

May 2020.

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