They say it is better to give than receive—a philosophy that Aurora, Ohio-based ReLink Global Health holds dear. Below, two members of the charitable organization’s leadership team—Ray Dalton, founder of ReLink Global Health, and Barbara Campbell, ReLink Global Health’s executive director, healthcare—sit down with 24×7 Magazine to discuss what led to the launch of ReLink Global Health and why changing the world happens one philanthropic act at a time.
24×7 Magazine: How did ReLink Global Health come into existence and how has it evolved over the years?
Barbara Campbell: Relinkglobalhealth.org is a project of the Ray and Jan Dalton Foundation, a faith-based organization that was formed in 1999 to provide financial, strategic, and medical equipment/medical parts support to international mission organizations. Until 2014, our focus was on providing equipment and parts to individual organizations. But we later found that facilitating collaboration between hundreds of organizations was a more effective use of capital and served a greater in-need population. That way, they can share resources and services.
Our real breakthrough was building a digital marketplace of providers covering all providers: government organizations, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, and private practices. The Ray and Jan Dalton Foundation funds the development of the software, education, and best practice seminars, and fills in the gaps of services by funding the service deserts.
24×7: How do you select an area to provide your life-saving services, and how long do you typically stay?
Ray Dalton: We receive grant requests for in-country organizations that are doing good work and begin the research to evaluate if there is an existing provider platform that could, in fact, benefit from a shared best-practices model. Currently, we are involved in several Nationwide Health Systems Strengthening projects in the country of Haiti. Through connectivity and collaboration, we can accomplish so much more in less time and with less resources.
24×7: Roughly how many pieces of medical equipment do you provide to resource-deprived areas around the world at any given time? Of those pieces of equipment, what percentage are new versus refurbished?
Ray Dalton: Since our inception, we’ve provided thousands of pieces of medical equipment to many countries—ranging from individual items to equipment for an entire hospital. We also support teams of biomedical engineers who perform the installations, follow-up repairs, and preventative maintenance. [Moreover], all equipment is either new, refurbished, and tested before shipment and is sent with manuals.
There are many factors that play a role in the successful and appropriate use of medical equipment. In addition to identifying the appropriate equipment and navigating shipping and customs considerations, you need to provide in-country technical and clinical staff trainings. That way, you can ensure the equipment is used properly and maintained.
24×7: What are some of the biggest logistical challenges to providing and maintaining medical equipment to resource-deprived areas, and what are some of the ways you have overcome them?
Ray Dalton: The most significant challenge is determining the actual need versus the ask. This is followed by determining the facility requirements for power, use, training, and maintenance support—specifically, who is going to use the equipment? Who is the equipment going to be used on? And how does this equipment fit into the facility’s ability to respond to the diagnostic outcome?
In other words, if you have an x-ray machine, do you have a processor if it’s analog? Do you have a CR/DR reader if the machine is digital? Is anyone trained to take the x-ray? Is anyone trained to read the x-ray? And, finally, is anyone trained or is there a referral network to treat the outcome [from the scan]?
24×7: How large a role does training play in maintaining medical equipment over the long term? Do you train local residents to work on the equipment onsite?
Barbara Campbell: Determining how the device will be maintained is one of the first and most important considerations. All equipment—regardless of its location—needs a well-thought-out service strategy. As an example, we work with several hospitals in Togo, West Africa. Because we donated many devices, we also arranged for a team to return to the site at least annually to preform repairs and PM all the equipment. During the year, a local biomed communicated with this team for tech support and parts support.
Also, we are currently developing a national biomedical service and support program with partners for the country of Haiti that will include incoming equipment inspections, inventory management, service management, and parts support.
24×7: Can you share with us an anecdote about a time when getting the right piece of medical equipment to the right place at the right time saved the day?
Ray Dalton: We have too many examples of this: One time, we had a missionary returning to Nepal carry a power supply to repair the only ultrasound unit within 500 kilometers. Another time, we shipped a controller board in a person’s luggage to Romania to repair the only cath lab in that part of the country, which had been down for over six months before we got involved. We were thrilled to be able to provide the controller board they needed within a week. On another occasion, we provided the only cath lab in a hospital in Vietnam. We had to send two: one to use and one for spare parts.
24×7: What else would you like for 24×7 Magazine readers to know about ReLink Global Health?
Barbara Campbell: We consider it a privilege to be able to use our experience in software and medical equipment and apply those skills to helping those who are unable to help themselves. We believe we have developed a great team, which looks for the right long-term solution to help others and then finds a way to get it done.