Meet Rob Barkema

Meet Rob BarkemaRobBarkema

As co-owner of Michigan-based Radiology Imaging Solutions for 27 years, Rob Barkema has frequently donated x-ray and digital imaging equipment. “Through the years we have helped International Aid, a Christian missionary group in our area that donated a piece of x-ray equipment for one of the hospitals helped by the foundation,” Rob says. “We usually get the equipment to International Aid and that is the end of it for us. This time, Diane Pollard came back and wanted to know if we would come to Jamaica to install the equipment.”

Responding with a yes, Rob went, saw the need, and agreed to help start a new initiative to help Jamaicans get the healthcare they desperately need. Here, he shares some insights into the new program:

You are heading up a new biomedical engineer initiative with the foundation. Can you tell us what a biomedical engineer does and why people with these particular skills are needed in Jamaica?Biomedical service encompasses different types of equipment within healthcare, such as anesthesia machines, incubators, blood pressure cuffs, and ventilators, to name a few. Servicing this equipment requires advanced electronics knowledge, computer diagnostic knowledge, and mechanical knowledge, not to mention on the job experience.

What sets us apart is the ability not only to get the equipment, but to get the correct equipment and to keep the equipment working properly. The main goal of the initiative is of course training. Providing additional personnel is one of the criteria we set forth for the Ministry of Health.

How do you see the rotation working? For instance, will you send someone down for a week to repair equipment and train local staff on a quarterly basis?

Yes. We envision a regular rotation of service engineers with a wide variety of specialties. They would stay a week at a time. The template we developed on our first visit worked great. We were able to get all the information we needed from the Jamaicans to bring the right parts, tools, and equipment. It also kept thesurprises to a minimum once we got on site. That template has served us well for all our visits since.

Your first trip to Jamaica was your second time traveling outside of the US. What was it like to travel with suitcases full of parts and equipment?

My wife and I had taken a cruise in 2005 and stopped in Mexico as part of that. With our first trip to Jamaica we had suitcases full of electronic parts, tools and test equipment. With everything we heard about travel restrictions and regulations, we were a little concerned. It turned out that we were way more concerned than the airline.

Tell us about your meeting with officials at the Jamaican Ministry of Health.

We felt that it went well. They understood that we are trying to HELP THEM do things for themselves. We also made it clear that they would have certain responsibilities and certain criteria to meet in order for us to continue to help them.

What critical needs do you see in Jamaican health care?

Obviously our perspective is from the technology side. They have to learn to maintain the equipment they have now and then slowly upgrade to new and better. The biggest problems we see are the multi-pronged reasons for equipment failures. By that I mean there is a lack of service expertise, lack of parts, lack of preventative maintenance, and lack of user knowledge.

What is your impression of the Jamaican health care workers and their receptivity to the Issa Trust Foundation’s work?

In a word GREAT. Sometimes they have a little fear of Diane because she demands accountability. I think that is a good thing.

You have the chance to be involved with many nonprofits. Why Issa Trust Foundation?

We are sure that this is the direction God led us.