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Image of a needle being places in to a infectious waste sharps red colours bin with the person holding the needle with the hands covered with a surgical glove
A sharps container is specially designed for safe disposal of sharps waste

Examples of risks to consider when donating equipment

There will always be a risk that your project or donation will have unintended consequences that you have not predicted- this is why it is so important to conduct a thorough pre-assessment.

For the examples given in a previous step, some ideas you could have suggested (although not a comprehensive list) are:

ECG machine

  • The cost of an ECG test is too expensive for some patients to afford - worsening inequality or increasing financial hardship.
  • Healthcare staff are not properly trained in ECG interpretation, leading to incorrect clinical decisions.
  • Costs (e.g. paper, ink, electricity, spare parts) place a financial burden on the healthcare facility.

Suture kit

  • Due to the donation, further suturing or wound care materials are not prioritised in the health facility’s budget, and then when the donated equipment runs out there is a shortage.
  • Suture needles are re-used on multiple patients, increasing risk of transmission of blood-borne diseases.
  • Sharps injuries due to inadequate facilities for disposing of used needles.

Potential risks are not a reason not to proceed with the project, but by anticipating them you can plan how to minimise the risk.

In general, always consider the following:

  • Cost of use of the medical device to patients - Will use be free for patients? If not, how much will the health facility charge for use of the device? Will all patients, whatever their level of income, be able to benefit?
  • Is there a risk that the medical device could be misappropriated and/or monopolised for personal gain? e.g. excessive use, bribery etc.
  • Are healthcare staff trained to use the device properly? Could any harm come to patients from improper use?
  • What facilities are in place for safe disposal of waste generated by using the device (e.g. sharps, broken spare parts, used consumables) and for old devices that are being taken out of service?
  • What are the risks to health professionals from using the device?

Finally, especially for complex medical devices, consider potential impact on the local healthcare market.

For example, if you donate an MRI scanner to a healthcare facility, what impact might this have on the healthcare facility a few miles away that already has an MRI scanner?

Is there sufficient clinical demand and technical expertise to support both?

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This article is from the free online course:

Medical Equipment Donations to Low Resource Settings

St George's, University of London