Empowering local ECPs to maintain their own equipment
One of the biggest challenges for many eye health programs in the developing world is equipment maintenance. Many clinics, hospitals and vision centers are unable to operate at their full potential because their equipment is broken or in need of maintenance, and there are no local people with the training needed to carry out even relatively minor repairs.
Dr. Howard Purcell, Senior Vice President, Customer Development Group with Essilor of America, witnessed this first hand when he visited the School of Optometry at Mzuzu University in Malawi in November 2015.
Two years later, with funding kindly provided by Essilor of America, the first Ophthalmic Instrument Maintenance Training Course was held in Malawi from September 4-15, 2017. Eleven trainees participated in the course, including one Optometrist, four Optometry Technicians, five Medical Engineering Technicians and one Biomedical Engineer.
Over eleven days, trainers from Lions Aravind Institute of Community Ophthalmology in India showed the trainees how to dismantle and clean an ophthalmoscope and a slit lamp; and to identify and repair various mechanical faults. They also worked with indirect ophthalmoscopes and retinoscopes.
The trainees were introduced to the working principles of Keratometers, including how to clean and calibrate non-working units; and they were able to analyse and fix a fault on a Sonomed Pacscan 300A.
They conducted fault finding on seven sets of Phoropters and were able to fix three that had mechanical faults. They also worked with a tonometer, operating microscopes and learned how to sharpen surgical instruments.
By the end of the course, all trainees demonstrated confidence in dismantling and reassembling most of the ophthalmic instruments found in their respective hospitals. One of the trainees, Mike Leonard, even has plans to establish a training center to benefit ophthalmic technicians working in the southern region of Malawi.
“I couldn’t be happier to hear that this course was such a success,” said Dr. Purcell. “I was so impressed with the enthusiasm, creativity and commitment of the Optometrists and Optometric Technicians who I met in Malawi, and it is a joy to know that they can now maintain their equipment more effectively and provide eye care to more people in need”.