On January 30, 2014, the USAID Strengthening Uganda’s Systems for Treating AIDS Nationally (SUSTAIN) programme provided a small fleet of vehicles to the Uganda Ministry of Health (MOH) to support activities of seven Regional Medical Equipment Maintenance Workshops. The seven vehicles will provide transport to the workshop teams, allowing them to conduct routine repairs, maintenance and servicing of various medical equipment in the Arua, Fort Portal, Gulu, Hoima, Kabale, Lira and Mbale regions.
This hand-over comes after an assessment of functionality of the Regional Medical Equipment Maintenance Workshops. The assessment revealed that performance for most workshops was limited by lack of transport for technician teams to travel to various healthcare facilities to conduct on-site repair/servicing of medical equipment or to transport the equipment to the central workshops if necessary.
Other challenges identified include absence of appropriate and adequate tools and equipment necessary for carrying out repairs, dilapidated workshop infrastructure and lack of skilled staff in biomedical engineering to maintain/repair sophisticated automated equipment. In addition to providing vehicles for the Maintenance Workshops, USAID/SUSTAIN is supporting the Ministry of Health to address these other challenges as well.
The USAID/SUSTAIN Chief of Party, Dr. Nathan Tumwesigye informed the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda and guests present at the hand-over ceremony that by the end of 2013, the programme had recruited and placed seven biomedical engineering technicians at each of the Maintenance Workshops to support and work with existing teams. The programme will also support training of all biomedical engineers in basic trouble shooting, preventive maintenance and full servicing. Dr. Tumwesigye added that each of the Workshops will further be provided with relevant toolkits and other materials to use in their work, and support will also be provided for necessary structural renovations.
“I salute the USAID/SUSTAIN programme for complementing the work of the Ministry to provide essential healthcare to the people of Uganda. Upgrading the capacity of Regional Workshops is in line with government’s programme to improve healthcare systems,” said Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Rugunda at the vehicle hand-over ceremony at the Ministry headquarters.
Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Minister of Health (Left) receives a key for one of the pick-up vehicles from Dr. Nathan Tumwesigye, USAID/SUSTAIN Chief of Party.
The Minister, who was the Chief Guest at the event, said that the MOH will begin including plans for sustainability of donor-funded activities, like those of USAID/SUSTAIN, in their budget cycles. Also present were the Permanent Secretary Dr. Asuman Lukwago; Commissioner of Health Services in charge of Planning, Dr. Francis Runumi and other officials from the Ministry.
The USAID/SUSTAIN programme’s activities to support upgrading the capacity of Uganda’s Regional Medical Equipment Maintenance Workshops are part of a broader effort to strengthen quality laboratory services in the country. As Workshop technician teams are more able to repair, maintain and service medical equipment, equipment downtime is expected to decrease, leading to efficiency and improvement of quality of laboratory services. This support, along with USAID/SUSTAIN’s other laboratory strengthening interventions, are ultimately aimed at improved standards and capacity for diagnosis, management and monitoring of various health conditions in the country, including HIV/AIDS.