The main purpose of our trip to Malawi really started once we had arrived in Lilongwe (the capital) after a four hour drive from Blantyre on Wednesday 16th March. The journey was good and colourful.
The next day we set about connecting the phantom head units as best we could. The phantom head units were largely unscathed and we got on with the task. The next day we installed a chair into the operating theatre and found a fault with it that would require a part
We also commenced the replacement of two full treatment centres (ie delivery, light and suction etc attached to a chair) and were joined by the six biomed students five of whom work as dental therapists, and one is employed as a trainee engineer and are training to be able to repair medical equipment whilst working in the field.
This training has been sponsored by Maldent and provided by Medical Aid International through a connection we made via Dentaid, supplying two surgeries for Ghana.
We are currently working on adding dental modules to this training so that dental equipment can be maintained by locally trained people, an exciting initiative supported by Dentaid, Henry Schein, Maldent, Med Aid, Dci and Axium.
These six young people proved to be fast learners, enthusiastic and demonstrated initiative. At one stage, Chris and I were called away to review the carpenter’s work and told them to wait for five minutes.
When we returned, they had completed the disconnection of two chairs we had all been working on and pushed them out of
We worked with the students to connect the new units, making sure everyone had a turn with the tools. We connected electrics, air and water, checking for leaks and then left the units for us to commission later. We moved on to two other surgeries with the students to disconnect existing and swap with the better condition ones we had just removed from across the corridor.
The students were able to put into practice what they had learned and we split them into two teams of three. It was like two formula one pit crews racing against each other – very encouraging to watch.
The next day, Saturday, we were joined by Chippi, one of the students from the previous day who actually lived nearby and worked in the department.
We got seven out of 10 remaining units all up and running, using the other three for spares and then assigning them to scrappage.
All seven will be distributed to rural hospitals in the next couple of weeks as agreed by Martha, the Chief Dental Officer, and Jessie the head of dept at the hospital.
On Monday we were able to complete the commissioning of the two new treatment centres (again with Chippi’s help) and Chris enjoyed commissioning all the phantom head units, finishing off with a brief training session on their use with the year three BDS students who were there for lectures.
A couple more small tasks and then we handed over all our tools and spares as a donation to the department to Jessie, said our goodbyes and left for the hotel, stopping off at a local market on our way back.
Written by Stuart Bassham