In Nata, Botswana on the African continent medical supplies are scarce.  The tiny clinic that serves the population of this remote village has learned to make do with whatever they can find.  In December the staff posted a plea for funds to buy a new stove.  They had been using an old fashioned pressure cooker to sterilize medical instruments.  When the gas stove finally broke down they could no longer perform even simple surgical procedures.  Turning away patients in need was heartbreaking since the nearest surgical hospital is 120 miles distant – an impossible journey for impoverished villagers.  Instruments now have to be sent to the nearest location with a sterilizer (60 miles away in Gweta).  Transporting the sterile items over such long distances greatly increases the risk that they will be re-contaminated during the journey back.

The clinic asked for just $150 in donations to buy a working stove.  Instead, they received enough money to finally purchase an inexpensive autoclave of their own along with other equipment.  The purchase was initially delayed because they could not find an available unit in the correct size for their facility.  However, staff members were able to move forward with the purchase of a set of high quality scales.  Now, for the first time, they can weigh visitors accurately and prescribe medication dosage accordingly.

As of March 2009, the Nata clinic has finally found the correct autoclave for their purposes.  It cost less than $1,800 USD so the price and the size are both right!   Staff members are eagerly awaiting delivery of the equipment.  Shipping goods in and out of the region takes time, so hopefully they can get up and running soon.  With the ability to sterilize instruments restored once more, the medical personnel on staff will be able to help patients promptly and efficiently.  They currently serve over 2,500 patients a month and are open 24/7 to meet the needs of as many people as they can.  One of the next items on the clinic’s wish list is a working fax/copier machine so that they can communicate with other health care facilities.  In a country where travel is difficult, being able to send documents and information instantly will be a real benefit.

More About Nata, Botswana

Although the clinic and associated organizations have been able to raise almost $50,000 over the years, this merely scratches the surface of the needs in this village.  Donations are used to cover everything from medicines to clothing and school supplies.  One of the most important services this money makes possible is the transport program for people living with AIDS.  The 60 mile trip to the ARV clinic in Getwa costs $4 – a price that many in Nata simply cannot afford.

The HIV infection rate in Nata is even higher than the national average of 24% in the rest of Botswana.  Almost 50% of pregnant women in the village are HIV positive.  Over 400 children in the village have been orphaned by AIDS.  Botswana does have progressive programs in place to treat existing patients and reduce the spread of HIV; but this is still an uphill battle when accessing treatment is so difficult.

In conditions where even the most basic equipment such as a sterilizer is out of reach for so many local clinics, the situation is desperate.  Some autoclaves can be refurbished by the manufacturer and resold at a cost that charitable organizations or donors can afford.  If your medical facility or laboratory has outgrown its current sterilizing equipment, it may be time to upgrade to a model with a larger capacity.  Or, you may require functions that are not available on older versions in order to keep up with the latest sterilization techniques and requirements.

To determine which type and model of sterilizer will best serve your needs, take just a couple of minutes to read this report free of charge.  After you have selected your new autoclave, take a moment to locate an organization in your area that will find a way to repurpose your outdated equipment.