March 1, 2016 — The American International Health Alliance (AIHA) launched this week a new twinning partnership designed to strengthen Uganda’s in-service training capacity in biomedical engineering and technology. The overall goal of this partnership is to build the institutional and human resource capacity of the national and regional equipment workshops operated by the Ministry of Health’s Health Infrastructure Division (HID) and Uganda’s Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL).

Uganda, like many low-income countries around the world, imports the bulk of medical equipment used by its hospitals and public health laboratories. Much of this equipment is out of service, but could be easily repaired at minimal cost by trained professionals. Unfortunately, biomedical engineers and equipment technicians in low-income countries are affected by the same challenges that doctors and nurses face, including inadequate numbers of qualified personnel to meet existing needs, limited educational opportunities, lack of on the job training, absence of regulatory bodies, brain drain to higher-income countries, and competition with the private sector for the limited pool of skilled professionals.

With support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Uganda, AIHA has responded by linking HID and CPHL with the Lorma Consortium, a coalition of biomedical engineering and health sciences schools and international subject matter experts. Together, partners will collaborate to develop sustainable, locally-driven interventions to improve in-service training programs; develop laboratory equipment maintenance guidelines, protocols, and training modules; and train personnel in first- and second-line equipment maintenance, routine safety training and calibration, and the servicing, maintenance, and certification of biosafety cabinets.

“This partnership between the Ministry of Health, AIHA, and the Lorma Consortium will focus on improving the human resources capacity in Uganda’s regional medical equipment workshops to better manage and maintain laboratory equipment. Activities conducted through the partnership will provide a basis for the Ministry’s in-service training and capacity development for our biomedical technicians,” says Sitra Mulepo, Senior Engineer for Medical Equipment at HID.

“The Lorma Consortium, comprised of health professionals from the Philippines, Canada, and the United States, is honored to be part of this AIHA Twinning Center partnership to strengthen the capacity of the Ugandan Ministry of Health’s biomedical engineers and technicians,” says U.S. partnership coordinator, Ralph Plumb, PhD. “We are very pleased to provide technical support to build on and help expand the Ministry’s excellent work in this field. Further, we are very pleased to be contributing to PEPFAR and UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets through this new initiative.”

Plumb and other members of the Lorma Consortium are in Uganda this week to kick off the partnership with a series of site visits, assessments, and planning meetings that will serve to guide capacity-building activities during the coming year. This partnership will be managed through AIHA’s HIV/AIDS Twinning Center Program, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).