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Portrait of Damian Masanja

Damian Masanja: Empowering Engineers to Improve Healthcare Access

Sep, 2020

Damian Masanja began working with Touch Foundation’s Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) program in 2018, partnering with engineers at our long-time partner hospital, Bugando Medical Centre (BMC) to promote biomedical excellence. BMC just hired Damian as a full-time Technical Performance Manager to continue working with BMC technicians to ensure that Lake Zone equipment is always fully functional. We sat down with Damian to talk about the HTM program, his role, and his exciting vision about the future of biomedical engineering.

 

Damian Masanja Baluhya has spent almost two years working closely with Touch and the engineers at BMC to implement core processes and build capacity in their engineering department. In August, Damian stepped into a new role with the HTM program, employed directly by BMC, and will continue his groundbreaking work with engineers by conducting a performance assessment over the next 18 months. This is a big deal; as Damian says, “engineering is pivotal to all hospital successes.” Improving engineering outcomes has a direct impact on patient care. For example, when engineers in the Department recently reduced the average downtime [due to malfunction] of hospital equipment by 11 days, it meant that more equipment is now readily available to perform the procedures patients need.

 

Much of this improvement is due to Damian and the engineers’ work to set clear goals, problem solve, and ensure efficient routines in the office. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which the department now employs to track things like completed jobs and operating room activity, play a huge role in the team establishing goals and following through on them.

 

A KPI board in the engineering department.

 

When something doesn’t go as expected, Damian is quick to problem solve with the engineers: “now we want to interrogate every answer to a question: why? why? Until you have 5 ‘why’s.’” Asking “why” in this way creates space for improvement and positive change.

 

This desire for interrogation and learning makes sense given that Damian is driven by his love of teaching. “Teaching,” he says, “has always been a passion, whether it’s in a classroom or it is building capability.” Building capacity, both with skills, like computer literacy, or with practice, like implementing routines, is critical to ensuring sustainability, which is one of Damian’s main goals for the program. In his new role at BMC, Damian will continue mentoring members of the department and coordinate future technical trainings.

 

Damian with some members of the engineering team.

 

For a program like this to be sustainable, there must be ownership from the people impacted by the program (e.g. the engineering team at BMC). Thus, when Damian introduces new practices and systems, he does it in close partnership with his team, working to ensure buy-in so that everyone understands, owns, and agrees with the changes. “I am happy that I have been enjoying the very good relationships with most of the engineering staff,” Damian says. He’ll spend time in his position at BMC evaluating adherence to processes and best practices, continuing to raise the department’s performance and service quality. With all the successes that the department has seen over the past two years, Damian is setting high goals for the HTM program. “Hopefully,” he says, “this department and Bugando Hospital can become a real center of excellence in Tanzania and East Africa.”

Touch’s Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals with POA

Sep, 2020

Touch Foundation is committed to achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), focusing on strengthening health systems to ensure a better and more sustainable future for all. We believe that healthcare workers are the ultimate drivers of SDG 3 (ensuring health and well-being for all). When designing and implementing programs like Prioritization and Optimization Analysis (POA), we collaborate with global actors to ensure long-term, locally led change that supports the equitable distribution of healthcare workers and accelerates the realization of the SDGs.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has solidified what many of us already knew: healthcare workers, in adequate numbers and with the proper mix of skills to meet the needs of the communities they serve, is a nonnegotiable part of ensuring health and well-being for all people, everywhere (SDG 3). We created POA (Prioritization & Optimization Analysis) to improve the allocation of limited healthcare workers given the demand for health services, as well as real world budget and supply constraints. Using this tool, governments in sub-Saharan Africa and other health workforce planners can deploy healthcare workers to facilities and communities with the greatest need.

 

Since our inception, Touch Foundation has supported the training of over 6,000 healthcare workers and we’ve used POA, with the support of local governments and PEPFAR, in 4 sub-Saharan African countries to allocate members of the health workforce where they’re needed most. These essential workers are at the heart of achieving SDG 3.

 

Though significant progress has been made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we still have a long way to go, and countries in sub-Saharan Africa face some of the largest deficiencies in health access. This region carries nearly one quarter of the world’s disease burden while possessing only 3% of its healthcare workforce and only 1% of its financial resources for healthcare. Now, more than ever, given the dramatic setbacks caused by COVID-19, we must buckle down on our collective action over the next 10 years to achieve the health-related SDGs. Working towards good health and well-being will be the keystone in achieving all 17 Goals, from gender equality to decent work and economic growth.

 

Training, effectively allocating, and supporting healthcare workers is key to achieving nearly every SDG target related to health and well-being. These include ambitious reductions to the global maternal mortality ratio and neonatal mortality rates, ending the AIDS epidemic, and strengthening emergency preparedness and response. With healthcare workers equitably distributed, and thus facilities better staffed, more services become readily available, making it far easier for patients to access care.

 

To have a sustainable and catalytic impact, we recognize the importance of collaboration across business, government, philanthropy, and civil society partners. That’s why we’re excited to continue our engagement with the United Nations Global Compact and Every Women Every Child, and continue actively partnering with leaders around sub-Saharan Africa to ensure that healthcare workers can fill in the biggest gaps.

 

Learn more about our POA program here.

 

Learn more about our work to promote maternal health here.