‘Our Mission Has Never Been As Critical As It Is Today’
In hospitals across the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, the battle against COVID-19 is being fought with ventilators helping critically ill patients to breath, and x-ray and CT scanners helping doctors diagnose sick patients.
With this equipment playing such a crucial role, it’s never been more urgent to keep these machines up and running. That’s why GE Healthcare’s services teams across the region are working around the clock to help hospitals and clinics maximize the availability of this equipment.
“Their resilience is really beyond words,” says Hady El Khoury, General Manager, Services for GE Healthcare, Eastern Growth Markets. “The field teams and remote engineers have such an incredible sense of purpose,” says El Khoury of the more than 463 engineers working across the region. “Their mission, our mission, has never been as critical as it is today.”
These teams include field engineers who go into hospitals to work directly on machines that are at the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other teams of online engineers work from home during national lockdowns on their laptops to diagnose and repair machines via secure internet connections.
The work of these online engineers is particularly important during the crisis because over 30% of the time, they can help hospitals and clinics get their machines back online almost immediately. “These remote capabilities make a big difference in allowing us to respond quickly,” El Khoury says.
Whether it’s installing a software patch, correcting a configuration, resetting some part of the system, checking error logs, or something else, these online engineers can resolve machine faults in minutes.
A team of more than 33 remote engineers proactively monitor some equipment remotely. Advanced software such as GE Healthcare’s OnWatch or Tube Watch self-monitor and send alerts to online engineers if any issue arises.
What’s more, these online engineers reduce machine downtime, even when more complex issues require a field engineer to make a repair or replace a part. That’s because their remote diagnostics means they can determine what part needs replacing, and what tools and expertise are required.
As a result, when the field engineer gets to a site, he or she is almost always able to fix the problem during that initial visit, and often within a couple hours. This means the equipment is back in the hands of doctors, nurses and technicians to treat the next COVID-19 patient.
“The field and online engineers really have a feeling of contributing to the collective response to this crisis,” El Khoury adds.
GE Healthcare’s ability to respond so quickly and with the right parts available is not by chance. Supplies of personal protective equipment for field engineers was ordered in advance. For their own safety and that of all the facilities they visit, they must follow strict protection protocols.
GE Healthcare deploys its field engineers by geography and specialty to ensure service teams are positioned to give full coverage across the region, despite the limits on cross-border travel.
At the outset of the crisis, GE Healthcare ramped up production of critical spare parts for the ventilators, x-ray machines and CT scanners that would be so important in treating COVID-19 patients. These are stockpiled in GE Healthcare’s three regional supply centers in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allowing faster support for hospitals across the region.
Another step GE Healthcare is taking to increase the regional supply of ventilators is to work with its customers to identify and return their old, unused or non-working ventilators to be repaired at its regional Repair Operations Centers (ROC) in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
“We overhaul them and get them back to the hospitals as quickly as possible,” says El Khoury. While acknowledging that the number of refurbished ventilators by no means meets the demand, he makes an important point that applies to the work being done by all the field and online engineers:
“Every ventilator we’re able to put back into use means another life that can be saved.”
Read more stories about GE Healthcare’s work to enhance across the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.