Barriers to availability of surgical equipment in Kenya a surgical equipment journey approach

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Roos Marieke Oosting
Linda .S.G.L Wauben
Salome .W. Mwaura
June .K. Madete
Reinou .S. Groen
Jenny Dankelman, Prof.dr.


Surgery, Surgical equipment, Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya, Biomedical Equipment Technicians (BMETs), Maintenance


Background & Objective:
The need for surgery is currently not met in Sub-Saharan Africa, requiring both extra workforce and surgical equipment. Currently, there is a gap in the availability of surgical equipment which, among others, limits the provision of safe surgery. To design strategies to increase availability, the use of surgical equipment in this context needs to be understood. This study aims to: 1) identify the different phases surgical equipment goes through during its lifespan (i.e. the surgical equipment journey) in Kenya, and to 2) identify barriers that are perceived by biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs).


Material & Methods:
Seven semi-structured in-depth interview sessions were conducted with a total of 17 BMETs working in Kenya. Participants worked in six different hospitals (four public, one private and one mission). Interviews were conducted between December 2016 and December 2018. Participants were asked to describe or draw the surgical equipment journey and describe the perceived barriers during this journey.

The surgical equipment journey consists of three phases: procurement, usage, and disposal. Stakeholders involved in the surgical equipment journey are users, BMETs, procurement officers, local distributors and in case of donations, donation agencies. Bureaucracy during procurement, difficulties to obtain consumables and spare parts (especially for donated equipment), cleaning with heavy chemicals, and usage in challenging environments were identified as barriers during the surgical equipment journey.


Sustainable interventions at multiple organisational levels are required to optimize the surgical equipment journey in hospitals in Kenya. Different strategies that can be applied in parallel to increase availability of surgical equipment in Kenya were identified by the participants in this study: policies on donations, procurement of durable equipment, more well-trained BMETs and university-trained biomedical engineers, and designs and business models that fit the local use in Kenya and presumably other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.


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