Maker doctor builds his own rural hospital equipment out of scrap

Dr Oluyombo Awojobi founded the hospital at Eruwa, Nigeria, a rural location without consistent access to electricity. Dr Awojobi is an accomplished maker, and over 27 years, he's built a variety of vital medical apparatus out of scrounged materials.

His guiding principles are that devices should be simple and easy to repair, and should not require access to off-site power to run.

He's built an operating table with a foot-pumped jack to raise and lower it, a bike-powered centrifuge, a pedal-powered suction pump made from an inner tube, a corn-cob-powered boiler made from an old propane tank, and more.

His blood centrifuge, which separates plasma from red blood cells, is made from used bike parts. You pedal with your hands and it spins the blood sample as fast as the propeller on a small airplane.

The suction pump that the clinic uses to remove blood and fluids during surgery is made from the valve on a bicycle inner tube and is also powered by pedaling.

The hospital's boiler is made from an old propane tank. For fuel, it uses corn cobs collected from nearby farms. The boiler produces steam for the autoclave, which sterilizes the surgical equipment.

Because most of Awojobi's devices don't need electricity, the hospital doesn't have to rely on the town's unpredictable electrical grid or spend a lot of money running diesel generators when power is down.

That keeps care at the hospital affordable to the farmers who make up its clientele. Delivering a baby costs $30.

And Dr. Awojobi says there is another advantage to designing his own equipment. “Because I make it, I will know how to mend it,” he explains. “I don't have to depend upon anybody else.”

This Nigerian doctor runs his hospital on corn cobs and used bike parts [Rowan Moore Gerety/PRI]

(Thanks, Stryx!)

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