May 26, 2010

Thinking out of the box - Portable OR

Dr. Seyi Oyesola points out that common, survivable ailments and injuries -- burns, trauma, heart attacks -- kill thousands of Africans each year because basic medical care can be so hard to get. Having spent his early medical career in Africa, he understands the difficulties faced in providing care in under-developed ares.

To help bring surgical care to every region of the continent, Oyesola co-developed CompactOR, or the "Hospital in a Box": a portable medical system that contains anesthetic and surgical equipment. It consists of a  pop-up, portable, solar-powered OR for off-grid medicine in Africa and elsewhere.It contains anaesthetic equipment, a defibrillator, a burns unit, plaster-making facilities, surgical equipment and a built-in operating table. It even comes with its own tent to create an ad hoc field hospital..The operating suite is light enough to be dropped into inaccessible zones by helicopter, and can be powered by solar panels.The system is powered by a truck battery, and is made to be readily recharged via solar panel. The basic kit, minus battery, costs about £14,000, or roughly US$25,000; additional modules provide support for an extensive selection of drugs and more specialized medical treatments (including orthopedic surgery).

Although the Hospital-in-a-Box may save lives, Oyesola reminds us that with meager pay and inadequate facilities, there is still little incentive for medical professionals to remain in Africa. Proper education and technical training could pave the way for more, and more capable, new physicians to learn and stay in Africa -- and start the healing of the continent.

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