Tim Moss

To improve care, a nonprofit ensures the longevity of medical equipment

March 23, 2011
by Olga Deshchenko, DOTmed News Reporter
This report originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of DOTmed Business News

Although the hospital in El Salvador was small and strapped for resources, Tim Moss was glad to find a couple of incubators in seemingly perfect condition in its nursery. And yet, the life-saving devices hadn’t been used in years.

When Moss took a look at the incubators, he found blown fuses — a minor and easy to solve problem. “Babies were not making it because of a 25-cent fuse,” he says. “No one knew how to get a multimeter and simply just check the fuse.”

It’s no secret many health care providers across the world lack proper medical devices but equipment servicing is a lesser-known issue. It’s not just enough for a hospital to get its hands on a piece of technology – it needs to have knowledgeable staff to repair a system when it’s down.

The TriMedx Foundation, an Indianapolis, Ind.-based nonprofit organization, knows the importance of equipment maintenance. It works to not only deliver medical systems to facilities in need but also provides biomed training to local staff.

The foundation is the charitable arm of TriMedx, a clinical technology management services company. The foundation’s story began in 1999, when the company received a call from a small mission hospital in Milot, Haiti, asking for help with some high-tech equipment damaged during shipment from the United States. The company sent a team of technicians to repair the device and the experience became the launching point for the foundation as it stands today.

At that time, the company was looking for ways to advance one of its core values – “service of the poor.” It found the opportunity to do so through the foundation, which established its nonprofit status in 2004. The role of executive director was a perfect fit for Moss, who brought his biomed and management experience with TriMedx and his “co-career” as an ordained minister passionate about international service work, to the nonprofit.

“We quickly realized there’s a tremendous need in developing countries for working medical equipment and there’s very little support or people to repair equipment in those hospitals,” says Moss.

TriMedx technician
Todd Poor in Kenya

Since its inception, the TriMedx Foundation has completed more than 50 mission projects in 18 countries across the globe. At first, the nonprofit just sent equipment and servicing engineers to countries like Honduras, Haiti, Rwanda and Serbia. It then developed three- to five-year programs that enable U.S. biomed technicians to train local residents on servicing medical devices. “We really needed to go from giving a fish to teaching them to fish – to help hospitals have sustainable programs and help them with their equipment strategies,” Moss says.

The majority of equipment donations to the organization come from private donors, equipment vendors and hospital systems — poorly resourced hospitals most often lack portable X-ray systems, anesthesia devices, operating tables, sterilizers and other equipment necessary for providing and monitoring invasive treatments.

Portable X-ray unit
arrives in Haiti

“We also take medical equipment donations that may be too high-tech or they may not be mission-appropriate for work in a developing country,” Moss says. “We’ll take those devices and we’ll put the money back into our foundation to continue our biomed training programs abroad and help support our mission trip travel costs. We don’t turn down a lot of equipment.”

The nonprofit also welcomes financial donations and is always looking for experienced service engineers interested in taking a trip with the organization. Many biomed techs and service engineers already donate their personal time to assist with the missions.

One of the service volunteers who had traveled to a small Guatemalan hospital with the nonprofit got a first-hand look at how facilities rely on creative solutions in the absence of proper equipment when a woman gave birth to premature twins at the hospital.

The clinical team needed to stabilize their core temperature, and didn’t have access to incubators. One of the doctors wrapped the babies up in blankets and rushed them to the hospital kitchen. He put the newborns in the oven on the “warm” setting and used a mercury thermometer to monitor their temperature.

Inventive use of the available resources saved the twins, and TriMedx Foundation was able to provide the necessary technology for that hospital to avoid similar situations in the future, says Moss. Such cases point to the importance of matching the right equipment with the ability to efficiently service the devices, enabling providers to maintain a continuity of care.

“We’re amazed at what people can do when they’ve got the appropriate medical equipment to help provide and increase the level of health care in the facility,” says Moss.