City engineer leads project in Tanzania to install running water

The people of Shirati will benefit from hot water at their hospital

The people of Shirati will benefit from hot water at their hospital

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A Tanzanian hospital with no access to hot running water has been thrown a lifeline after an Edinburgh engineer came up with a solution using bits of old beds.

Dr Tom Grassie, 47, an engineering lecturer at Edinburgh’s Napier University, is leading a project to install vital kit at the struggling hospital and has developed an improvised system which will use the scrap-metal from disused hospital beds to provide a ready supply of hot water.

Tom Grassie, right

Tom Grassie, right

Shirati, which lies on the shores of Lake Victoria, serves a population of 200,000 in an area where poverty, malaria and AIDS/HIV are endemic.

The rural hospital has almost no running water and every day hundreds of sheets have to be washed by hand in water boiled over wood fires.

With no constant power supply either, Shirati’s medics are forced to carry out emergency operations by torchlight or using the light from mobile phones.

Dr Grassie said: “When we were in Tanzania, we were trying to design a system to provide electric power for the operating room when we saw a number of bed frames, which had been made out of old pipes.

“With a little bit of jiggery pokery, we could turn them in to a small solar water heater and with the amount of sunshine Tanzania has all year round, it will go a long way to providing a hot water supply.”

The renewables expert is also set to put an end to the hospital’s power problems after designing a solar-energy system, giving the operating theatre constant electricity.

Describing his visit to the hospital, Dr Grassie said: “It was a hard place to visit.

“They had a relatively modern ultrasound machine, but on the other hand the labour room had a sloping wooden bed with wooden stirrups – there was still a lot of blood from the last delivery when we were there.

“Children died of dysentery during our visit.

“Because of the lack of power, medics cannot always cauterise during an operation, and the hospital cannot store blood or medicine because the generator keeps cutting out.

“But despite all this, the patients there were still very grateful and the staff dedicated. We’re hopeful this development will change people’s lives.”

Shirati Hospital spokesman Jo Magatti said: “The situation in the theatre was dire. The new power system will transform the way our medics work.”

Dr Grassie has so far managed to raise more than £16,000 for the energy project, part of Engineer Aid, and will head back to Tanzania later this year to complete stage one.

To donate funds, visit www.engineeraid.com or e-mail t.grassie@napier.ac.uk.