LADYVILLE, Belize – A member of New Horizons is using a specialized skill set to repair steam sterilizers throughout Belize.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Rosalinda Alfaro, biomedical equipment technician from the 59th Medical Wing at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, is repairing steam sterilizers with various problems in the towns of Belmopan, Orange Walk and Dangriga.
The steam sterilizers are used for sterilizing instruments used for surgery.
Previously, the sterilizer in the Western Regional Hospital in Belmopan was broken for three months. The heating elements were no longer working and needed to be replaced to get the steam generator running again.
Staff members from the hospital spent approximately 15 hours per week driving to sterilize equipment. Alfaro overhauled the steam generator and replaced the heating elements and flange on the machine.
“This saved us time and money,” said Caesar Alvarez, biomedical technician for Western Regional Hospital, through a translator.
“Before New Horizons fixed it, we had to drive from Belmopan to Belize City.”
Not only is Alfaro fixing this machine, she is performing preventative maintenance for other machines throughout the country.
“Sterilizers get a lot of use and operate at high temperatures. This is why it is important for them to receive scheduled maintenance,” said Alfaro. “This is usually performed on an annual basis and involves replacing gaskets, o-rings and solenoid valves.”
“One of our main problems is we don’t have spare parts,” said Roy Mencias, biomedical technician at the Northern Regional Hospital in Orange Walk.
“[The parts] will enhance the machine, so the machine comes back to new,” said Mencias. “I cannot see the level of the water; I cannot know if the water is at the right level. Having the sight glass, I will be able to see.”
By performing this type of maintenance, the life expectancy of the machine is expected to increase.
“It was a great experience and I enjoyed working with the Air Force personnel,” said Alvarez through a translator. “I look forward to future exercises like New Horzons.”
New Horizons is a U.S. Southern Command exercise that gives U.S., Canadian and Belizean personnel an opportunity to train jointly in an exercise setting, in order to be prepared to meet future challenges. The exercise began April 1 and is scheduled to run until June 30. Personnel also provided general medical care, dental care and are building several classrooms throughout Belize as part of the training.