TANZANIA faces acute shortage of Biomedical Engineers (BMEs), with 7,000 experts needed to handle medical equipment in the country.
Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training William Ole Nasha, speaking here during his tour of educational institutions in the region, said the government was relying on technical training outfits like the Arusha Technical College (ATC) and Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT) to rescue the situation.
The biomedical engineer is a professional for design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of medical equipment in hospitals.But, many local hospitals have resorted to electrical and electronic engineers to man their biomedical equipment due to shortage of BMEs.
"We need over 7,000 biomedical engineers," said Mr Ole Nasha, hinting that only the two colleges were trying to bridge the gap.
ATC has so far produced five batches of BMEs, with the total number of graduates in the field still less than 200. "All of the biomedical students here graduated with ordinary diploma levels but effective from this year, the college has started the bachelor degrees' programmes and has enrolled 40 students, with 150 others pursuing the ordinary diploma," the Head of Department, Engineer Nicodemus Msafiri said.
However, even the college itself seems to experience acute shortage of BME trainers, with only one qualified tutor at the campus, assisted with three others who had attended short courses. The college needs 15 qualified tutors to meet the demand and produce adequate graduates.
"In efforts to reduce the shortage of qualified tutors, we have sent abroad two BME lecturers for training; one is in China undertaking masters' programme and another is pursuing PhD in the United States," explained Engineer Msafiri. Biomedical engineering is the application of engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology for healthcare purposes, including diagnostic or therapeutic.
According to experts, BME seeks to close the gap between engineering and medicine, combining the design and problem solving skills of engineering with medical biological sciences to advance health care treatment, including diagnosis, monitoring and therapy.
The field of BME has recently emerged as its own study as compared to many other previously accomplished engineering fields. The recent World Health Organisation survey reported that nine in ten of all the countries studied, maintenance of their medical devices was problematic due to difficulties in getting qualified engineers.