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Medical Aid International and Arbutus Medical – a Partnership to Help Advance Global Orthopaedic Care

Arbutus Medical was born out of an immense need for surgical drills at accessible price points throughout the world. The team obsessed over this challenge, developed the DrillCover Technology platform, and tailored the company’s flagship HEX and PRO drills specifically to the needs of surgeons in low resource settings.

But the team at Arbutus Medical understood that this was only one piece of a much larger puzzle. Drills are of no use without additional components such as external fixation devices, autoclaves, and OR tables to name a few. They also need to be transported to various parts of the globe, require the support of an engineering team to maintain those devices, and a procurement team to replenish supplies. 

Partnership with Medical Aid International

For this, Arbutus Medical teamed up with Medical Aid International, a social enterprise, with the objective to advance patient care in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs), by supplying essential healthcare equipment specifically tailored to the LMIC environment, among other things. 

“We decided that the best way to solve this drill problem was to partner with an “integrator” — to take our drill and offer it as part of a complete OR solution — and that’s why partnered with MedAid – one of the most experienced in the business and a very purpose-aligned partner”, said Lawrence Buchan, CEO of Arbutus Medical.

Simply put, Medical Aid International is a one-stop shop to help fit the pieces of this massive puzzle together. Having been in the business for many years, they are able to handle procurement, logistics, training, establish local partnerships, and provide insights into what might be useful for any particular project to best serve the needs. 

“The key thing about what we do is, we are a whole solutions organization. So we offer consultancy, we project manage, we do the procurement, we’ll send the equipment to the location, and if necessary, on bigger projects, we’re can install it”, explained Medical Aid International CEO Tim Beacon. 

For Arbutus Medical, the relationship with Medical Aid International is a huge value-add to their mission of streamlining surgery for the good of patient care by helping NGOs and hospitals in low resource settings make the purchase, shipping and importation process for new medical devices easy. The main aim of this partnership is to help patients in need, and Medical Aid International brings in the expertise, experience and established relationships to  make that work. 

The two have been working together for a few years now, and Medical Aid International is the official distributor of Arbutus Medical’s drills in Africa. They are in use in Madagascar, Malawi , Ghana, Ethiopia and Uganda, to name a few, and have been a vital adjunct  in reducing the backlog of orthopaedic trauma cases and providing faster care to patients in these countries.  

The need for orthopaedic tools and training in LMICs

Orthopaedic tools are not only expensive, but there is a dire need for them in LMICs, since skeletal trauma accounts for a large proportion of the cases which need treatment. 

“If you go to any hospital where we work, 60 to 80 percent of the patients in the hospital beds will have broken bones, because they don’t have the equipment or implants to treat them,” Beacon said, adding that he and his team have the capability to change that. 

He points out that the Arbutus drills are the perfect solution to this problem, given that they’re inexpensive, easy to use, and solve a pertinent problem. “It’s a truly fantastic solution, and it’s low cost, it’s absolutely brilliant”, he said. “There are no other words – it does what it says on the tin and is cost effective. To buy that as an orthopaedic power tool, you know, it would be five, six times the price, and quite frankly, not as robust.”

Orthopaedics International, which is part of the Medical Aid International family, has worked to develop solutions suitable for LMICs to provide quality orthopaedic equipment and implants, along with a training package as a more long-term solution. Trauma is one of their areas of focus, and the Arbutus drills are an important component of that.

Via their MedAid Academy an online biomedical engineering training program is available on their website and comes with a professional toolkit which includes textbooks and clothing. This has been extremely successful not only in helping trainees learn more about the equipment, but also to go to clinics and train other people and is a real demonstration of MedAid’s commitment to training and infrastructure development.

Many of Arbutus Medical’s partners in LMICs have spoken about the challenges of donated equipment so much of which is totally inappropriate for the challenging environment it goes to. and often they do not even work. Having access to Arbutus Medical’s drills and the expert training and advice provided to them by Medical Aid International is a significant boost for local hospitals. 

For Beacon, it’s an all encompassing, multifaceted problem. Having run trauma courses for eight or nine hospitals where only one had a working steriliser, he understands just how deep rooted the problem is, but sees hope for the future. “Well, you know there’s the saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, and you know, it means it doesn’t all happen at once, you just got have to start and create the momentum, success breeds success.”

Medical Aid International’s business model

Medical Aid International’s business model is to get the best value for money possibe, an ethos that aligns well with Arbutus Medical’s philosophy on innovation – “frugal innovation” roots and a practical, value-focused approach to healthcare innovation. This makes for a strong partnership rooted in shared values.

“The key thing about our business model is that people come to us and they will give us their budget, and our job is to make their budget go a very long way,” said Beacon. 

He went on to explain that maintaining relationships is an important factor in being able to make the most of a small budget, because with close relationships comes trust. “Because of our relationships, we will obtain ex-demonstration equipment from companies either free or at a very low cost”, he said. “And also we broker donations from the health system, or the British health service, and that way we can make their budgets go much further.”

Medical Aid International has done projects ranging from 2 million pounds to a single dollar, and has gotten free equipment worth  many  millions of dollars, making them reliable, trustworthy, and valuable partners to any players in the industry, looking for this expertise. 

“Arbutus Medical is able to serve our champions – those who work in global health and  are improving access to surgical care – better through our partnership with MedAid than we could do alone,” said Buchan. “Tim and his team have answers to all sorts of questions and problems, and are the perfect partners to work with.”

Contact Us and Work With MedAid

If you are an NGO, surgeon, or outreach group planning your next surgical capacity-building initiative, contact us today to learn more about our HEX and PRO Drills and see if MedAid is the right partner to streamline your project.