A DEDICATED TEAM in a hidden central Scotland hub is on track to build and ship 30 fully-equipped operating rooms in 2021 alone, all destined for hospitals throughout Africa.
Kids Operating Room (KidsOR) is the only global organisation focused on providing dedicated Operating Rooms for children’s surgery – and its work has already helped save and improve the lives of tens of thousands of children.
Despite the challenges of the past year, the seven-strong team at its Dundee depot have ramped up the curation of the rooms, which are individually designed by biomedical engineers working with in-country colleagues to ensure each aspect will meet the long-term needs of local surgeons.
Recent months have seen containers delivered to Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Zambia and Nigeria – with a further five containers to be shipped in May and June alone.
Kids OR is focusing efforts on reaching countries with no – or critically low – provision for children’s surgery, with deaths from treatable conditions – such as appendicitis or complications following broken bones – extremely common.
Dave Tipping is Director of Global Operations and heads up the Dundee warehouse and lab. A qualified architect, he has been with the charity since it was founded in 2018, spearheading its design and delivery of operating rooms.
He said: “The team here is phenomenally committed. We have a singular focus on providing extensively researched and tested rooms that will provide maximum benefit to the recipient hospital, its surgical teams, and thousands of – often desperate – families.
“We’ve had to adapt considerably over the past 15 months, with it being much harder, or even impossible to get out to the locations where the projects are being delivered.
“Everything we do is around providing a sustainable solution. We aren’t building Operating Rooms with specialist equipment that relies on our long-term support. We’re here to ensure surgeons in the African continent, as well as those in countries we’ve worked in previously in South America, are able to utilise each life-saving and life-changing item for the long-term.”
Part of the Kids OR’s Dundee team includes Francesca Aras, a biomedical engineer who would typically be jetting around low and middle-income countries to determine hospitals’ needs and suitability to receive a room, before working on solutions from the Scottish hub.
During the pandemic, Dave, Francesca and the team have found creative solutions – making use of the full scale ‘mock’ Operating Room within its Dundee warehouse, where it can test each item of equipment, as well as providing video-link demonstration. A typical Operating Room it dispatches will feature more than 3000 items, with each one having to have quality certification and instruction, as well as commodity codes, which can be different for each country.
Thankfully, KidsOR, which also has offices in Edinburgh and Nairobi, has a network of engineers and surgeons throughout Africa installing and testing equipment – and providing long-term support to ensure the rooms operate at their optimum once installed.
It isn’t purely clinically-focused – KidsOR also takes pride in ensuring that its signature colourful animals adorn the walls of each of its operating rooms it installs – helping children to feel calm and reassured as they go into surgery.
Nicola Wood, Co-Founder of KidsOR, believes that while 2020 and 2021 have proven challenging, the team have demonstrated unwavering enthusiasm.
She said: “Recent months have had a galvanising effect on our team. We’ve now given more than 36,000 children access to life-changing or life-saving care. Globally more children die from conditions easily treated through surgery, than from HIV, malaria and TB combined. We’re helping change that by providing the equipment and training for paediatric surgery.
“Yet there is still so much to do – and we won’t stop until we achieve our mission – a world where every child has equal access to safe surgery. Each container leaving our Dundee hub is a step closer.”
KidsOR was founded by Nicola and Garreth Wood in 2018. It aims to install 120 paediatric operating rooms across Africa by 2030.