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City engineer working in Tanzania to install running water

A hospital in Tanzania that had no access to hot running water has been given a lifeline by Edinburgh engineer Dr Tom Grassie.

The 47 year old engineering lecturer from Edinburgh Napier University has spearheaded a project which uses scrap-metal from disused hospital beds to create a constant hot water supply.

The rural hospital Shirati helps a local population of 20,000 in an area where many people suffer from poverty, malaria and AIDS/HIV.

Every day hundreds of sheets have to be washed but they currently have to use water that is boiled over wood fires.

There is also no constant power supply at the hospital so the Shirati medics have to carry out emergency operations using the light from their mobile phones or torchlight.

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.”

His solar energy system will give the hospital constant electricity.

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.”

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

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