It's not just nuts and bolts that make the work of biomedical technicians so crucial in mission hospitals.
They may not set broken bones or make skin grafts, but the two biomedical technicians who traveled to Bangladesh last year performed their own special brand of surgery.
Monte Oitker and John Souto spent two weeks installing and fine-tuning a host of medical machinery at Memorial Christian Hospital, a long-time ministry partner of Samaritan’s Purse. Their work was part of our multifaceted response to help Rohingya refugees who have fled from neighboring Myanmar. We also deployed nurses and other medical personnel to serve in the Rohingya Care Unit at the hospital.
Samaritan’s Purse sent a DC-8 cargo plane loaded with 20 tons of medical equipment and supplies to Memorial Christian Hospital. The World Medical Mission technicians arrived a few weeks later, entrusted with the critical responsibility of getting the equipment up and running, and training hospital staff in the operation and maintenance of that equipment.
Their “patients” were high-tech gadgets like anesthesia machines, C-arms, vital signs monitors, and portable X-ray machines.
“What we do is equip and empower healthcare workers who are on the frontlines,” said Oitker. “We support their work by giving them functional tools so they can meet physical needs, but also so that they can build relationships with their patients and share the Gospel.”
In addition to setting up the donated equipment, the technicians made repairs or did routine maintenance to older model machines the hospital was already operating.
Heavy-duty equipment like the anesthesia machines and C-arms were stationed inside the surgical theaters. That posed an interesting challenge at times, since surgeons and the technicians both needed use of the rooms.
“We worked on those machines between surgeries,” explained Souto. “We may have an hour or more before the next surgery. Sometimes we had to hurry.”
Souto was responsible for the anesthesia machines and the vital signs monitors, while Oitker focused on installing the C-arm and X-ray machine that had come on the plane.
“We equip and empower healthcare workers who are on the frontlines.”
Oitker was excited to help set up a digital X-ray PACS (picture archiving and communications system) that introduced digital imaging technology to Memorial Christian Hospital. The new system produces sharper, better quality images and can display those images within seconds.
As sometimes happens on the mission field, a few unexpected problems developed with the installation of equipment. Oitker said he was impressed by the gracious attitude of the doctors who pressed on despite the challenges.
“It showed me that the missionary doctors are serving there for the right reasons. They are there to fulfill God’s calling, and what they care about most are people’s souls.”
Both technicians visited the Rohingya patient ward and saw how the refugees were impacted by the Christ-like compassion of their caregivers. It was especially gratifying for them to know that their expertise plays a vital role in bringing the Good News of God’s love to hurting people in Bangladesh.
“We were able to help the Rohingya and to give them hope,” said Souto. “But this isn’t just for them. It is a long-term commitment to support the continued work of the hospital. Long after the Rohingya have been treated and released, the hospital will still be using this equipment,” he said. “We are meeting the immediate needs of the hospital as well as its future expansion. The staff will be using the equipment for many years to come.”